Ian Jenkins is the CEO of Snakes Downunder Reptile Park and Zoo. In a recent meeting of Queensland ZAA members, he was confirmed as the QLD representative on the ZAA Board for a further two years. Ian has contributed a lot on the Board and ZAA are pleased that he will continue to represent the membership.
Can you tell us about the history of Snakes Downunder Reptile Park and Zoo and a bit about the park today?
We began in 1998 as Snakes Downunder – a fixed site for educational snake shows conducted three times a week using snakes I had reared from hatchlings.
Rule changes meant we had to be licensed as an exhibitor rather than a demonstrator so my family and I hatched a plan to develop a “boutique” reptile park which opened in 2007. Since then, a dedicated team have developed the facility, acquiring Australian mammals, then exotic reptiles and finally exotic mammals.
Can you tell us about some of the sustainability initiatives at Snakes Downunder?
Right from the start, we’ve had composting toilets and collected rain water. The water for the croc ponds comes from a spring-fed dam and it’s on a circulatory system, going back into the dam through a natural filter. The zoo now runs off two solar systems during the day. We estimate battery storage will be added in two years’ time.
We now use compostable cups, straws, cutlery, sandwich containers and paper bags. The next plan is to eliminate plastic water bottles and install a water bottle refill station. Not a simple task as we are not on a mains water supply.
Tell us about a welfare idea you or your team came up with to enrich life for your animals.
The Accreditation Program has really made us think about how we work for our animals and what activities we do with them. One change is that we used to use young saltwater crocodiles for visitor interactions but decided to try young alligators instead.
The difference is that there’s no need for restraint with alligators and we’re also able to give them the choice to be picked up or not. We are training them to come by name (for a food reward). If an alligator comes when called, he/she does the visitor interaction. If none of them do come when called, we don’t do the interaction, but they still get fed a little later. We feel there is an overall benefit in that visitors get a chance to feel a crocodilian and, as the alligators are given a choice, there is no detrimental effect on their wellbeing.