Finding his feet and taking off! Introducing Rockhampton Wildlife Officer, Alex
As a young boy, Alexander Peters had flippers instead of feet. Growing up with a surfboard in one hand and a fishing rod in the other, Alex dreamed of a life at sea as a skipper. But when he found out he was colour blind, he found another way to pursue his passion for the outdoors.
As one of our wildlife officers in Rockhampton, Alex could be scouting for crocodiles one minute and back in the office the next. In fact, right after Alex shared his story with us, he was off to set a trap to catch a croc deemed as posing a risk to human safety.
“I do this job because I love it,” he said. “There’s such variety—we’re out in the field some days and back at base others. I could be conducting a site inspection in response to a compliance enquiry, surveying a flying fox roost, transporting a croc, or writing up reports —I don’t really have a ‘typical day’.”
In addition to the diversity of his role, Alex appreciates what he observes as a seamless collaboration between different areas of the department.
“Across the department, we pull resources together very easily; everyone can help out on different projects. I’ve received training in fire management, so if the rangers need back-up for fires, I can suit up and pitch in. So we’re constantly upskilling. In late 2018, I put my hand up to join the koala survey team in South East Queensland for a short stint while resources were low for their team. A group of us walked through the bush, counting koalas to contribute to conservation research and policy.”
Alex beams as he describes what he gets to do every day. Yet, being a wildlife officer wasn’t his original plan.
From the ocean to the bush
“I grew up on the coast. I was always drawn to water—surfing, boating, fishing, you name it. At 16, I became a diver. Then, I thought I’d make a career out of my love for the outdoors, so I set my heart on becoming a Captain with the intention of working on a vessel conducting reef monitoring.
“I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science (majoring in Marine Science), at the University of Queensland. While I studied, I gained experience in vessel operations—working on an eco-tour boat, whale-watching and diving vessels as a deckhand.”
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. When working towards his Coxswain boating licence, Alex learned he was colour blind. His difficulty in detecting red and green was again confirmed when he applied for the Navy.
Turning towards a career on land, Alex worked in geo-spatial mapping before moving to Gladstone in 2015. There, he joined the Queensland Government’s Green Army as a supervisor, where he led a group of volunteers restoring vegetation in protected areas following Cyclone Marcia. From there, he applied to join our department as a wildlife officer, accepting a month-long contract which we extended, and then extended again!
“I really needed that opportunity. It was my big break. The month rolled into two months, and then it was extended again, before I was offered a four-year contract focusing on croc management. Then, after two years, I was fortunate enough to be offered permanency.”
Life as a wildlife officer—opportunities to learn, discover and grow
Reflecting on how far he’s come since joining us, Alex says the department actively identifies training and experiences to keep him growing.
“The department is supportive of who I am. They see the skills I have and they push me to be a better wildlife officer. They help me identify gaps and give me the tools to build upon my capabilities.”
And as much as he loves learning, Alex relishes the chance to share his knowledge and mentor others.
“Just last week, I was down in the Wide Bay region helping a group of wildlife officers improve their vessel operations and crocodile management techniques. For me, that’s career development; a chance to build on leadership skills.”
Indeed, over the past four years with us, Alex says he’s had the opportunity to undertake a position of leadership, including two secondments as wildlife officer in charge.
“Stepping up as wildlife officer in charge has been awesome! In that position, I’ve had greater involvement in planning croc management, training team members and monitoring the quality of our equipment across our unit. Experiences like that prepare me for the next step in my career.”
A reality check
While he loves his role, Alex doesn’t shy away from sharing the realities of the day-to-day.
“It can be challenging. It’s our job to regulate activities and behaviour under Queensland’s environmental legislation—so we can’t please everyone. We issue an array of enforcement tools like penalty infringement notices or warning letters to people doing the wrong thing. They might be keeping or trading wildlife without a permit, for instance, so we need to conduct thorough investigations to get the right outcomes for both people and animals.”
Unfortunately, on the rare occasion, it’s necessary to euthanise wildlife posing an immediate threat to people (when they cannot be trapped or captured), or animals that have been kept by humans and have become incapable of living in the wild if they cannot be rehomed.
“It’s not a nice part of the job, but when all other avenues have been explored, it’s just what we need to do. At the end of the day, it’s not about cuddling wildlife—that’s where some people go wrong when they consider a career in this space. We’re here to manage wildlife the best way we can and uphold the legislation.”
One foot in front of the other
Looking ahead, Alex wants to refine his skills and build his confidence. Ultimately, he says he’s grateful to have found his dream job even though it may require steel-cap boots and khaki pants instead of those flippers from his youth.
“I’ve realised I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do all along—just on land instead. I’m combining my love for science and the outdoors with helping people. And that’s exactly where I want to be.”
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