Mildura Weekly : Friday May 30 2014 Vol 8 No 30
www.milduraweekly.com.au 8 Mildura Weekly – 30/05/14 By VINNIE RODI THERE’S nothing quite like seeing a five-metre python up close and personal... trust me. It’s a sight that is enough to send shivers down the most coura- geous person’s spine, with the long, thick and powerful body – while magnificent – also terrifying. And while Mildura Weekly pho- tographer Darren Seiler and I were keen to keep our distance – joining most of the parents and carers in the room at the time – the group of two and three-year-olds sitting two metres in front of us (and relatively closer to the snake) simply laughed in delight at the sight of the enor- mous reptile. The snake in question boasted the rather ironic name of ‘Tiny’ (because I guess ‘Giant Freaking Snake’ would be overkill), and was the star attraction of a recent visit by Melbourne-based group Reptile Encounters. Visiting local schools and day- care centres as part of an education- al tour, Reptile Encounters aims to educate youngsters about different animals – namely those in the rep- tile and insect families. Reptile Encounters presenter Jacob Walder – a former Mildura resident and an old school friend of mine – spent most of the morn- ing seeming to enjoy the looks of awe (and in some cases horror) on people’s faces. For him, this was just another day at the office. “I love it,” he said. “I consider myself very lucky to be in a job that allows me to travel around and teach kids important lessons about animals. “While guys like ‘Tiny’ aren’t venomous, they are incredibly strong and visually stunning, and it’s always a lot of fun to see peo- ple’s reactions when he comes out of his box. “Some people are fascinated, others terrified, but for the most part it’s all about teaching people – especially young kids – about dif- ferent animals.” Jacob said Reptile Encounters’ main goal is to educate children about what to do if they run into a venomous snake, or any other dan- gerous animal. “While it’s good that a lot of kids aren’t afraid of snakes, it’s also important that they know what to do if they ever run into one on the playground or at home,” he said. “Our main message is that while it’s fun to pet a snake in a controlled setting like this, under no circumstance should kids ever play with snakes – or any other dangerous animal. “These visits don’t only pass on educational information, but also allow children to get up close to different types of animals that they would usually, and rightly, stay away from. “For the younger kids it’s about explaining the differences between animals with warm and cold blood, and those with feathers, scales and fur. “Getting those messages of safety and education across is what makes this job so worthwhile.” Other notable guests on the day were ‘Chomp’ the crocodile and ‘Fredo’ the frog, with six different animals making an appearance – much to the crowd’s delight. Jacob – a former Mildura Senior College alumni – has been a mem- ber of the Reptile Encounters team for the better part of six months, having relocated to Melbourne af- ter a stint working in New Zealand. Graduating from Mildura Se- nior College in 2005, Jacob im- mediately made the move to Melbourne where he took up a Bachelor of Science course – ma- joring in zoology – at Melbourne University. After completing his degree, Ja- cob had the chance to relocate to New Zealand, where he completed a Certificate in Wildlife Capture and Handling at Unitec New Zealand. He spent three years living and working in New Zealand, eventu- ally taking on a job at the Auckland Zoo as a zookeeper. “Animals have always fascinated me,” he said. “I guess most kids fall in love with all sorts of animals from a young age and then maybe grow out of it, but for me it stuck right through to adulthood. “I have always wanted to work with animals, and my time at the Auckland Zoo gave me an incred- ible opportunity to do that.” While there Jacob had the chance to work with the zoo’s array of birds, and even participated in breeding programs. He described the work as 50 percent practical and 50 percent study. “Your main job is to care for the animals, ensuring they’re happy and healthy,” he said. “The other part of it is learning. “I had a wonderful opportunity to learn more about different birds and their habits, and it’s an experi- ence I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” While loving the work in New Zealand, Jacob said the pull of home had proved too much. “Australia was definitely calling me back,” he said. “I had enjoyed my time studying and living in Mel- bourne, and when the opportunity to come home came up I jumped at it. “This job also means that I will have more opportunities to come back to Mildura and visit my par- ents and family here, so it’s a big win personally.” More information about Reptile Encounters is available by visiting the group’s website www.reptileen- counters.com.au . Jacob’s loving the wild side of life SRI Lankan-born national president of Australia’s lat- est political party, the Rise Up Australia Party’s Reverend Daniel Nalliah, 48, LEFT, will be campaigning in Mildura this weekend – while on the lookout for a suitable candi- date to help the party contest the State elections in Novem- ber. He’ll be at the River Edge Church in Ranfurley Way at 7pm tomorrow, and again at 10am and 5pm on Sunday, speaking on a wide range of topics, including changes the Government has made on multiculturalism, free speech and immigration, and what he says is the need to protect Australia’s Judeo-Christian Heritage. He has been quoted as saying he is ‘determined to be politically incorrect,’ with pro-Christian policy plat- forms to limit Muslim immi- gration, and curb multicultur- al policies, stating; “Tolerance has gone too much, and Rise Up Australia is committed to keeping Australia Australian.” According to a biography on his Christian evangelical website, Catch The Fire Min- istries, he was born in Sri Lanka. where in his youth was a drummer in night clubs before the lead guitarist in his band turned to God, which encouraged him to do the same. He worked with an un- derground Christian church in Saudi Arabia, a country that does not permit Christi- anity, and that he lived and preached near Mecca, later documenting this in an au- tobiography titled ‘Worship Under the Sword.’ He decided to move to Australia to further his teach- ings to the masses, setting up the ‘Catch The Fire’ Minis- tries. A former Family First candidate, Rev Nalliah once declared that former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was a heathen “living in sin,” stated that former Greens leader Bob Brown was “an openly practising homosexual,” and said he felt sick to the stom- ach watching them shake hands. Among his party plat- forms are social, conservative and free-market ideologies such as the affirmation of the male-female family unit, and the dismissal of socialism in favour of enterprise. He is a prominent human rights ad- vocate and law reformer and accoirding to some reports, was instrumental in securing a Royal Decree from the King of Saudi Arabia so that Arab Christians and other non- Muslims could practise their religion in their own homes, free from the risk of arrest, imprisonment or possible be- heading. It was also stated that in 1998, he convinced the US Congress and the Clinton Administration to pass the US Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. In 2007 Mr Nalliah won a celebrated le- gal battle with the Islamic Council of Victoria for free- dom of speech and the right to criticise parts of the Koran which promote hate and reli- gious intolerance. Rise Up Australia seeks candidate • HANDLE WITH CARE: Rhyder Hargrave, 4, was fascinated by this python, ABOVE, expertly handled by Jacob, who also held a group of youngsters spellbound with a small crocodile, LEFT.
Friday May 23 2014 Vol 8 No 29
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