A renowned Australian crocodile conservationist has joined the Hartpury staff and is relishing the opportunity to ensure that the college’s animal collection continues to lead the way in the education sector.
Extensive investment in recent years has already seen Hartpury snap up a host of new species, including opening a new walled garden animal collection in November 2013 featuring meerkats, prairie dogs and a wide range of rodents and rabbits.
With more than 30 different species living on campus, students already benefit from plenty of opportunities to get hands-on with native and non-native animals, including reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. There’s also a large aviary and an aquatics room, plus larger species like llamas, wallabies and emus.
Now Colin Stevenson, 48, has arrived at Hartpury charged with developing a strategy to use his extensive experience in zoo planning and design to continue to improve and expand the animal collection. He will also deliver some guest lectures.
Growing up in Sydney, Colin’s passion for crocodiles started at the age of two. He went on to open the ‘Hunter Valley Zoo’ in 2003, educating visitors about native Australian animals including crocodiles and other reptiles, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, ostrich and primates. The zoo also had the largest collection of deer species in Australia at the time.
For the last 20 years, he has been heavily involved in conservation and education. Colin was the first person licensed in the UK to take crocodiles and alligators into schools, colleges and museums to give people the opportunity to handle and learn more about the different types of species.
He is also a member of the Crocodile Specialist Group for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – a network of experts in their field working towards a common goal of ensuring the continued survival of species under threat.
A specialist in the Gharial (India), Tomistoma (Malaysia) and Dwarf Caiman (South American) species, Colin was director of the Madras Crocodile Bank – the largest crocodile zoo in Asia – for three years, leaving India in September 2013.
“My passion has always been for education and busting the myths around certain animals, especially the ones that get a bad press,” he said.
“If someone walks away from my zoo or my presentation with a bit more appreciation for an animal or having learned something, that’s the most satisfying thing. In the past, I’ve had people involved in the conservation sector say their interest in a certain animal or species was sparked by me, which is amazing.
“That’s what is so fantastic about coming to work at Hartpury; that I’ll have a stake in inspiring that passion and interest in the animals in our students, helping them to help the world’s biodiversity in their future careers.
“I’ve got a lot of experience in zoo planning, design and husbandry and I’m really looking forward to working with Hartpury to continue to enhance their reputation as a leader in animal management by improving their facilities and helping develop their curriculum.
“It’s important that any improvements we make give students additional opportunities to get more involved in care, management and research. We’ll look at best practice and learn from that so we can identify what we need to focus on going forward and stay ahead of the curve.
“For me personally, it will also be great to open students’ eyes to the range of careers they can go on to and potentially help expand work placement and research opportunities for students and staff using my contacts in the animal and conservation sector.”