Bob and Del Flemming
Bob and Del built Billabong Sanctuary literally from the ground up, starting from a bare paddock and developing the park into an award-winning Eco-tourism attraction [more info here].
Through the years they’ve both remained actively involved in all aspects of the operation of their family-owned business, from frying chips to feeding crocs.
Bob is General Manager, overseeing staffing, infrastructure and legislative requirements….. and now and then he still finds time to feed a hungry croc.
These days Del enjoys semi-retirement behind the scenes, but is still very much involved in decision making, and encouraging and supporting the work of the whole team.
Our Rangers are an incredibly talented mob, ferociously dedicated to wildlife conservation. They come from diverse backgrounds, but all are passionate about working in their ‘dream job’ caring for our native wildlife and sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm.
Everyone has a hand in the day to day care of the park: raking paths, cleaning enclosures, preparing special food for each animal, conducting tours, and presenting the daily shows. In addition all have extra responsibilities according to their special interests and talents:
Acting Curator Senior Ranger Ray Stephens
Ray started his zoo keeping career as a volunteer at the former Cairns Wildlife Safari, where he soon found himself caring for the big cats, hand-feeding cheetahs, tigers and lions. His love affair with these magnificent creatures continued at ZooDoo in Tasmania. Initially employed there as Senior Keeper, Ray was soon promoted to Park Manager.
Here at Billabong Sanctuary, Ray supervises day-to-day operations, ensuring that shows are running smoothly and that Rangers in charge of mammals, birds and reptiles are providing the best possible care to our native animals. Watch for Ray in the crocodile enclosures, as he continues his training to work with our big males. Although no stranger to large predators, Ray admits that crocs actually present more of a challenge than lions and tigers. We know he will meet that challenge and will soon be part of the team presenting those exciting croc-feeding shows!
A marine biologist who worked as an aquarist for 9 years, Ranger Chris is our Reptile Specialist.
Chris has his own reptile collection at home, where he has an entire room devoted to venomous snakes, pythons, geckos and leaf insects. He’s one of the few wildlife carers in north Queensland qualified to rehabilitate turtles, venomous snakes and sea snakes
Obviously he’s no stranger to feeding large scaly creatures, and has progressed through all his training so he can now present our exciting croc feeding shows. At other times you may see him strolling past with a tubful of mealworms and a pair of tweezers, off to feed our smaller lizards.
Ranger Chris is building and diversifying our reptile collection, and enhancing their enclosures to give visitors more opportunities to marvel at these fascinating creatures. Have you seen the new terrarium in the Visitor Information Centre? It’s now home to a beautiful green tree python .
Chris is very comfortable in front of a crowd, though he spent years giving talks from inside a coral reef tank! His easy-going manner and love of his subject make all of his shows a delight to watch.
One of our most experienced Rangers, Jeremy is equally at home presenting the free-flight bird show, handling venomous snakes or feeding our big male crocs. Jeremy is also responsible for bird husbandry and training, and is preparing an instruction manual to ensure consistency in the handling of our amazing free-flight birds.
The success of this show is a tribute to persistence and patience of all our Rangers. As time allows, Jeremy is training more birds to join the spectacular free-flight display.
Ranger Renée is the mammal specialist on our team. She has overall responsibility for the health, husbandry and housing of our native mammal collection, everything from the free-ranging kangaroos to those cuddly koalas. On any given day you might see her in the park weighing a wombat or pampering a pademelon.
Renée is also an experienced presenter of wildlife shows, with extensive knowledge gained from her time at Wild Life on Hamilton Island. She has been working behind the scenes with Ranger Jeremy on bird training and handling, patiently building up trust with our beautiful birds of prey.
Renée is on leave at the moment, but is looking forward to rejoining the team soon.
Ranger Jules’ abiding passion is the dingo. Apart from working here as a full-time Ranger, she donates her free time to training our dingoes and advising other Rangers on their husbandry and handling. Jules is also a driving force behind the Australian Dingo Coalition.
Jules is an experienced presenter of wildlife shows and has been training to work with our big crocs. She has also been taking on an increasingly active administrative role behind the scenes, including management of our Volunteer Programme.
Ranger Pio is an exceptional young man in so many ways. Whilst still in high school, he spent 2 days a week with us for nearly 2 years, a traineeship position made possible through a special arrangement between Billabong Sanctuary and Skill360 Australia.
Our Rangers took him under their collective wing, mentoring him in skills and knowledge to use in his chosen career working with wildlife.
One of the highlights of our 30 Years Wild birthday celebrations was Pio’s talk on Torres Strait Islander culture, followed by traditional dancing and singing featuring his extended family. What a treat! Dozens of Junior Rangers have enjoyed wildlife adventures enthusiastically led by Pio during school holiday programmes.
Having recently graduated, Pio now joins the team as a full-time Ranger and is gradually taking on responsibility for presenting more and more of the daily wildlife talks.
Pio’s gentle nature and cheerful disposition make him a favorite with both our animals and visitors young and old lucky enough to meet him during feeding shows.
One of the newest Rangers to join our team, Elyse works with all of our native animals, but admits to having a few favourites:
She has helped train our new bare-nosed wombats Reuben and Wanda to harness, and can be seen taking them for walks around the park in the morning (though it often seems like it’s the wombats are taking Elyse for a walk!). Her goal is to offer this memorable experience to visitors—do you fancy walking a wombat?
Elyse is also working with Jeremy behind the scenes as they train our birds of prey to join the Free Flight Bird Show. Roxy the barking owl is making great progress, as he practices flying back and forth between them—you may have seen them in action after the regular show.
You will also see Elyse presenting shows throughout the day, where her depth of knowledge and cheerful smile have made her a favourite with the public.
After wrangling everything from camels to elephants in her previous job, Elyse has no hesitation helping to medicate a wriggly koala or health-check a prickly echidna. She’s looking forward to all the new opportunities and challenges ahead.
We value highly the contribution of our Casual Ranger staff. All started out here as Volunteers, and it is a tribute to their passion for native animals and their dedication to conservation that they are progressively taking on all the duties of a full-time Ranger. Meantime, the team has collectively been given responsibility for our macropods—the free-ranging grey and red kangaroos and their young joeys.
Lisa spent a year gaining experience with us as a Volunteer while completing her Bachelor of Science (Zoology) degree at JCU and is excited to join the team as our newest Casual Ranger.
She has had a lifelong passion for animal welfare and conservation and brings this dedication to her enthusiastic presentation of wildlife shows. Watch for her at Wombat, Koala and Reptile Experiences.
Meantime, behind the scenes, Lisa is helping Ranger Jeremy with bird show prep and hopes to take a part in the training of our free-flight birds.
Shop Manager Gabby, her assistant Tammy, and their co-workers Mellee and Dani are our hard-working front-of-house team.
They answer the phones and welcome visitors with a friendly smile and tips on making the most of their day (“Would you like a bag of seeds to feed the kangaroos?”).
From Blinky Bill’s Café they serve a tempting array of snack and meals to satisfy even the heartiest appetite– from Devonshire teas to Gabby’s famous lasagne.
Responding to customer requests, they add new items to the menu such as veggie wraps, gluten-free options and the delectable ‘Billabong Burger’.
The team will also fire up the barbecue to cater for tour groups, parties and meetings.
Melle keeps the Gift Shop stocked with a variety of souvenirs and gifts for the folks back home.
Overall, they complement the work of the Rangers to ensure that everyone who comes through the door enjoys the best possible time in our native wildlife sanctuary.
Moggsie takes care of all the infrastructure of Billabong Sanctuary, including the grounds, the enclosures and buildings. On any one day you could find him laying new irrigation pipes for the croc ponds, fixing a leaky toilet, or installing air conditioners in the wombats’ bedrooms. He loves working with the animals, and is happy to wrangle a feisty lizard so it can be medicated, or shift half a ton of cranky crocodile into a new pond.
Moggsie’s long-term goal is to see enclosures damaged by Cyclone Yasi gradually rebuilt, so the back of the park can be re-opened to the public. He says we’re stuck with him till he retires, so he may see that dream come true!
Sheila is a local resident living on acreage with her husband Gregg at nearby Alligator Creek with an abundance of wildlife visitors to her backyard, some being hand-reared and then released by Sheila into the wild, but returning on a regular basis. Billabong Sanctuary has been most fortunate to benefit from Sheila’s passion for Australian wildlife as she is our longest serving staff member, although in an honorary capacity.
Sheila loves Billabong’s philosophy of introducing local children to Aussie animals and providing international visitors an introduction to Australia’s unique fauna – where to see them in the wild and help in their conservation through our Billabong message.
The stories and updates you read on the Billabong website and Facebook on births, acquisitions of fauna, introducing new staff members, coming events such as school holiday programmes are all sourced by Sheila after consulting with Billabong staff.
Billabong management utilize Sheila’s love of the Sanctuary as a sounding board, as she is very close to issues which make the Billabong a unique eco based attraction.