Rob Bredl’s lifelong love of and fearless attitude towards wildlife, especially reptiles, have spawned a string of wildlife parks and television shows.
Story By Ken Eastwood
Watching Rob Bredl work with dangerous animals is as mesmerising as watching motor racing on a wet track. You just wait, heart in mouth, for an accident to happen. But this seasoned bushman, owner and manager of a string of wildlife parks, and star of 39 Killer Instinct television shows, declares that he knows the animals and their behaviour so well that you’re not going to see him come a cropper – although he will often come close.
Take big saltwater crocs: “I sit on them, I put my hand in their mouth and give them a kick up the bum, because we know how they behave.” He’ll put his bare foot into a crocodile’s enclosure and splash until the croc is within centimetres of him. He’ll get a piece of meat and tease the croc with it. It’s an incredible lesson in animal behaviour and shows someone who is either barking mad or incredibly knowledgeable. Or both.
It doesn’t always go Rob’s way. He’s had “lovebites” from
33 crocs over the years and taipans have nailed him twice, both times failing to release venom. Online, his worldwide fans just can’t get enough of him. “Rob is the best in this field,” says one. “Steve Irwin has nothing on this guy,” says another.
Rob was born in Renmark, SA, in 1950, three months after his Austrian/German parents emigrated to Australia. Within a few days of arriving, Rob’s father Josef had shown his interest – and bravery – in dealing with the local wildlife. “Apparently on his first day fruit-picking he caught a brown snake and took it home,” Rob says. “He couldn’t speak a word of English and they thought he was a crazy bloke.”
Collecting animals became quite a hobby for Josef, and later a python he recorded at Alice Springs would carry his name – Morelia bredli or Bredl’s python. “He just loved lizards and snakes and brought more and more home,” Rob says. “We also raised joeys in the backyard. The place grew and grew, and eventually people heard about it and wanted to come and see it.” Originally titled Bredl’s Reptile Park and Zoo, the institution was one of the first private zoos in Australia. It’s still going, under the name of Bredl’s Wonder World of Wildlife, which is where Rob spends the bulk of his time now. As well as extensive Australian wildlife it has monkeys, cobras and big pythons from overseas. “Renmark’s a town of 12,000 people and it doesn’t have a big tourist population,” Rob says, so at times it is a struggle to keep paying the food and petrol bills, but they had a reasonably good year last year with about 6000 through the gates.
Like many blokes his age, Rob was called up to serve in Vietnam at the end of the 1960s. Working as an Army cook, he would either go on shotgun duty with a convoy on his days off, or would put his Army boots aside and go bush – fishing or collecting snakes. “There are photos of me in the war archives with snakes in Vietnam,” he says proudly.
This story excerpt is from Issue #68
Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2010