FEEDING five metre crocodiles, handling snakes, caring for koalas, and hosting weekly wildlife segments to over 20,000 people globally are some of the career highlights of local, Nick Petropoulos.
Nick admitted this was not your average day job but said its an important one needed to ensure facts and education around animal conservation was spread across the world.
Growing up in Melbourne, Nick’s fascination with wildlife sparked from a young age.
He remembered being intrigued with dinosaurs and staying up late to watch animal documentaries on Animal Planet.
“Since I was a child, I was always just intrigued with wildlife and I loved watching documentaries and learning about all the different types of species really,” he said.
“I started keeping some reptiles as a hobby and it honestly just grew from there.”
A notable experience was doing work placement at Healesville Sanctuary where his passion flourished.
After school, Nick said he “just went everywhere and eventually landed in Townsville becoming a zookeeper”.
“I was offered a chance to work as an entry level zookeeper in Queensland, that was pretty much an amazing experience,” he said.
“I then went to Ballarat and became a reptile keeper and snake catcher and eventually ended up coming to live in Hamilton.”
Nick and his family now live on their farm in Yulecart with over 200 animals and species ranging from snakes, lizards and of course wombat, Boo.
Boo came into Nick’s care after she was left orphaned in South Australia.
Weighing only a few hundred grams at the time, Nick hand raised her and now is a much loved member of the family.
“We have lots of animals and we hand raised Boo last year and she is incredibly special, so she is probably one of my favourites here,” he said.
“Besides working with her, I love working with big crocs and I can’t wait to make my way back up to Queensland to have a play and feed some again.”
Nick now works as an educator, YouTuber, and private handler, establishing his business Wicked Wildlife.
“We are basically a mobile zoo, and we visit schools, kindergartens along with going to birthday parties to teach people about conservation and wildlife,” he said.
“We do lots of agricultural shows like the Ballarat Show and we do talks of venomous snake safety.
“We are usually pretty busy because people are really fascinated in this stuff.”
Nick now dedicates his time to educating people about native wildlife and wildlife conservation.
“Conservation is incredibly important to me,” he said.
“Most people know about koalas and kangaroos and that is where the knowledge of Australian wildlife really ends.
“Australia has some of the worst conservation rates in the world and we can’t afford to make mistakes.”
Nick can also be found spreading knowledge and information through his popular YouTube channel.
Hitting one million views last week, Nick said he initially started “making educational videos just for some fun”.
“Some of our snake videos get over 30,000 views and all together we have hit one million views on YouTube and 10,000 subscribers,” he said.
“All of our videos are different, and honestly the venomous snake videos are the winners.
“It gets a fair bit of traction by both international and domestic viewers.”
Nick said the videos are not the usual type of educational resources and said, “they are full of unusual and quizzical facts”.
“I try my best to put unusual facts that you don’t really see or know, and we make them quizzical and interesting,” he said.
“By creating these videos, we want to educate people and we do that by presenting in a fun way … no one wants boring facts.”
Among a global pandemic, Nick admitted it had been a tough few months full of cancelled bookings and trips.
“It’s pretty bleak in this space since the first lockdown and we had some bookings come through after we came out of it in June, but pretty much now we have lost every booking in the foreseeable future now,” he said.
“Now with COVID-19, our bookings are largely cancelled until March next year, so our videos are keeping people engaged with our business now.
“With 80 per cent of our income usually made over the summer months, it will be tough but luckily we have outside work and the videos bring in a little bit.
“It is hard to shoot some content as we usually visit zoos and wildlife areas to do filming.
“We did have a trip organised to Queensland to do some content on with some South American animals.”
For more information or if you have any questions on conservation or wildlife, head to the Wicked Wildlife, Facebook and YouTube page.