LIKE A BOSS
THE SOFTER SIDE OF SNAKES, AS EXPLORED WITH THE WILDLIFE WARRIOR JULIA BAKER
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
Julia Baker says Snake Boss lets people see snakes “as they really are”.