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Here at BizCover we find ourselves insuring all kinds of different businesses. From café owners and electricians to personal trainers and reptile rescuers.
Today, on World Snake Day, we look at the brave men and women who venture into the unknown – often someone’s backyard – to tangle with the slithering serpents.
One common theme with the three business owners we spoke with was that they believe snakes to be beautiful and often misunderstood creatures. They are constantly motivated to do what they so they can better educate the general public about snakes – and most of all, to ensure the safe relocation of the reptiles themselves!
Tony Harrison says he “accidentally” started his business due to his love of reptiles and the misguided perception of them with the public.
He kept reptiles as pets and quickly earned the reputation on his street as the local snake man. One day, a neighbour of Tony’s panicked and killed a snake that was lurking in their yard. Mortified at what he saw, he asked his neighbour why they didn’t call a snake catcher, they said there weren’t any in the area.
From that point on, the wheels were in motion for Tony to acquire the appropriate permits to become a snake catcher, with the initial goal simply being to save the lives of some innocent snakes.
“I started to get the odd call here and there then it bloomed into a few per day, as my name as a catch and release rep spread. Next thing you know, I’m being called day and night, 7 days a week. Then I thought to myself, “OK let’s set this up as a business and charge a small fee to cover the costs involved.”
Fast forward to today and Tony now runs the business with the help of his wife Brooke, and their son, Jensen – who has been known to steal the spotlight from his dad every once in a while.
While their main claim to fame is, and likely always will be snake catching, years ago Tony noticed that his time freed up significantly during Winter when roaming reptiles aren’t as frequent a find. He decided to use this quiet time to, in his own words, “help educate the public about these awesome creatures that we all live with. So ‘Reptile Relocation And Awareness’ was born!”
Tony, Brooke and Jensen bring a live, fun and educational show to almost any event, whether they’re at schools, kids parties, fetes and fairs, they’ve also supplied reptiles for when cooperative snakes and crocs are needed for film and photo shoots.
For Tony, the best part of his job is being able to pay the bills doing what he loves, with his family. He is also heartened by the noticeable impact they are having on the public.
“It makes me feel like I am doing something useful.”
As for what he loves most about his scaly friends, he believes them to be unique and misunderstood creatures that are a very important part of our ecosystem.
With over 19,000 snake relocations to date, Tony had these nuggets of wisdom to offer to aspiring business owners.
“Don’t expect it to kick off in one day. Expect blood sweat and tears for years before you make anything of it. and DON’T EVER SAY NO! Always say ‘yes we can’ and ‘yes we will’ and you’ll keep your customers happy.
From an early age Troy Hovenden had a passion for animals which quickly developed into a deep fascination with reptiles and more specifically, snakes.
Troy joined a herpetological society and began learning as much as he could about reptiles. A lot of his fellow society members caught and relocated snakes for a living, which is what spurred the interest in doing it himself said Troy.
“I gained some friendships with some other people who also do snake catching as a business and basically I just thought to myself I would love to do that too.”
There’s plenty of things Troy enjoys about his job, he boiled it down to the two things he loves most.
“The first is that I get to save a few snakes from being killed by offering people an option to have them safely removed instead. This also potentially saves a few people from a trip to the hospital after they may have otherwise taken matters into their own hands. The second thing that I find most rewarding is the opportunity I am afforded to educate people about the snakes in our local area. There’s nothing more rewarding for me than when someone says to me that they are less worried about snakes now that they have spoken with me.”
While Troy acknowledges that most people might find it a bit strange to love a creature like a snake, to him, they are just very fascinating animals.
“There are so many different kinds, all different shapes, sizes and colours and each one of them is interesting in their own unique way.”
What drew him to working with them was the initial desire to help a few snakes out of sticky situations and to educate people at the same time about some members of our native wildlife that are usually feared and very much misunderstood.
The Reptile Bloke had some great advice for fledgling business owners:
“In my business, something that I have found to be very important is building my public profile in the local community. Social media is great for this. Basically, you need to be the go-to-person for whatever it is that you do. You want your name to be synonymous with what you do. It is important to build a reputation among the local community as someone who is professional, reliable and knowledgeable. Be someone who is known for good quality. My advice would be to strive for these things.”
Urban Reptiles is a family-owned business – run by Sandra, Joshua and Bradley Dickinson – that is passionate about reptile education.
Their ethos is that education is important for conservation but also safety, when it comes to some of the world’s most misunderstood animals.
Urban Reptiles can often be found at fetes, events, school classrooms and even parties, celebrating and sharing their knowledge about Australian snakes, lizards, turtles and more.
In addition to their educative programmes, as part of their daily routine they also offer a 24/7 snake catching service throughout Brisbane and Ipswich – removing snakes that find their way into people’s homes.
According to Sandra, since her son Josh could talk he’s been intensely fascinated with reptiles – venomous snakes especially. It started with keeping lizards and a turtle, but eventually morphed into a full-fledged menagerie and a whole family gathered around the concern and passion for reptiles.
As for their favourite thing about their job?
“Having the opportunity to educate people and seeing them overcome their fears, while also helping them realise the importance these animals play. But nothing beats working with some awesome animals, both with our personal animals and also some of the many gorgeous wild snakes we find around Brisbane.”
There is no shortage of admiration for their reptilian friends as when we asked them what they loved most about snakes, it was the sheer uniqueness that the species as a whole boasts.
“Snakes are just so incredibly unique, and with some of the most beautiful colours in the natural world. When you see the variations in mobility, hunting/food, venom, habitat and quirks, there are so many amazing snakes around the world but especially in Australia. Even variations between snakes of the same snake species can be amazing, like finding a red coloured brown snake and a black coloured brown snake around the corner. Learning about these animals and how they are so different and survive in their own way is just amazing.”
The team at Urban Reptiles also had some handy advice for those looking to start their own business:
“Don’t get stuck down one track of what you expect your business to become. Explore and investigate the opinions of people in various professions that may not similar to yours. Sometimes new directions can become available to do something even more exciting you didn’t realise would be an opportunity or option.”