LIKE A BOSS

THE SOFTER SIDE OF SNAKES, AS EX­PLORED WITH THE WILDLIFE WAR­RIOR JU­LIA BAKER

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - JEMMA GALVIN

Slimy, slith­er­ing snakes don’t top many peo­ple’s list of favourite crit­ters. But if more of us would just give our ser­pen­tine neigh­bours a chance, we’d very quickly learn to love them, says Ju­lia Baker.

As the star of the hit An­i­mal Planet show Snake Boss, wildlife war­rior Baker res­cues and re­lo­cates snakes found in peo­ple’s homes and says that no two days are ever the same.

“In one episode a pet dog at­tacked a python out the back of a fam­ily’s house. They found it and put it in a box with a hot wa­ter bot­tle to take care of it. We took it to the vet and the RSPCA de­ter­mined that it was ac­tu­ally a pet snake that had been dumped, which hap­pens a lot. So, the fam­ily said that they’d adopt it! It was just one of those mo­ments where, hu­mans are lovely too. Of­ten peo­ple think all hu­mans are bad, but they’re not.”

The sec­ond sea­son of Snake Boss pre­miered on Mon­day, and while hands-on snake ac­tion is a big part of the show’s for­mula, there is a strong fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion too, Baker says.

“We’re get­ting the mes­sage out there that snakes are very im­por­tant. We’re show­ing them in a dif­fer­ent light. If we got rid of snakes we’d have plagues of rats and mice – it would be worse than cane toads.

“Through­out the se­ries you see snakes in a dif­fer­ent light; you see them as they are,” Baker says. “They’re not ag­gres­sive. They’re not try­ing to at­tack peo­ple.”

Baker wasn’t al­ways on the front­line of an­i­mal con­ser­va­tion. In fact, she worked as a pas­try chef for decades be­fore a divorce mo­ti­vated her to do all the things she’d al­ways wanted, but lacked the con­fi­dence to try.

“I’ve al­ways, al­ways had a big heart for an­i­mals and it was gen­er­ally more for the un­der­dog,” she says. “I used to scoop flies and bees and wasps out of foun­tains and put them on the grass to dry. I al­ways felt sorry for the an­i­mals no­body liked. It’s all right lik­ing cute and cud­dly ones, but they’ve all got a place. And we’ve got no con­trol over what we’re born as; we could have been born as a spi­der or some­thing.”

So, at age 47, Baker fi­nally ven­tured into the un­known to pur­sue a ca­reer where she could en­ter­tain chil­dren while work­ing with an­i­mals.

To­day along with the show she puts on rep­tile and pup­pet shows for thou­sands cu­ri­ous kid­dies and de­rives pure joy from see­ing peo­ple change their pre­con­ceived no­tions about snakes.

“I’ve had el­derly peo­ple who’ve had lit­er­ally 60 years of ha­tred and fear to­wards snakes then they’d watch me and the chil­dren with the snakes and they’d think: ‘I think I’d like a cud­dle with that snake.’ You can see it in their face, you can see that change of mind.”

From eastern browns to red-bel­lied black snakes, Baker han­dles the dead­li­est of the lot. Yet since one day 12 years ago, when a snake was first placed around her neck, her ded­i­ca­tion has never wa­vered.

And nei­ther have those who’s minds she’s changed along the way - that adop­tive fam­ily still sends her photos of them with their pet snake to this day. Snake Boss, An­i­mal Planet

Pic­ture: Liam Kid­ston

Ju­lia Baker says Snake Boss lets peo­ple see snakes “as they re­ally are”.

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