MAY 14 2018 By Greg Ellis Best in nation: Australasian Zookeeper of the Year Jarrad Prangell at Symbio Wildlife Park near Helensburgh. Pictire: Georgia Matts. Symbio Wildlife Park is celebrating one of its team being named the best zookeeper in the nation. Jarrad Prangell, 26, won the title of Australasian Zookeeper of the Year at the Australasian Society of Zoo Keeping (ASZK) Conference. While finalists are not told who nominated them he is pretty sure it was Symbio’s owners Matt and John Radnidge. Mr Prangell started working at the family zoo when the Radnidge family gave him an opportunity at 21. He has always had a passion for working with animals but growing up in Sydney’s Inner-West meant he would take every opportunity to explore the bush during camping trips and family holidays to the Blue Mountains and South Coast. He loves all animals but his particular interest has always been reptiles. Now he gets to look after reptiles and amphibeans at Symbio. “I grew up watching Steve Irwin. I always knew what I wanted to do and the Radnidge family gave me a chance. I started working in parks and gardens and then on projects.” Mr Prangell’s dream was fully realised three years ago when he was made a zookeeper. He was ecstatic just to be nominated. But being named Zookeeper of the Year blew him away. He said that did not happen without a great team and a lot of people in the industry helping him out. Matt and John Radnidge have continually provided direction and created opportunities. “I have also received a lot of help and training from the reptile team at Taronga Zoo. And I would like to thank (OEH) Office of Environment and Heritage and the RMS (Roads and Maritime Services). Australasian Zookeeper of the Year: Jarrad Prangell. Picture: Georgia Matts. “I didn’t think I would win but it is so good to get recognised because it shows all the hard work you are doing is paying off for the animals. We all go above-and-beyond to look after them here because we all have such a massive love of animals.” Mr Prangell said the win was great for the whole Symbio team who are all highly self motivated. He said zookeepers do not switch off when they go home. They are always thinking about the animals they care for. “I have had the opportunity at Symbio to design and develop conservation programs,” he said. “I love working here. Everyone is so passionate and enthusiastic. It is addictive. And I love the job because we are learning every day and see new things every day. There are so many opportunities. I love doing what I do. And everyone I work with is so happy about this.” Mr Pangell can often be found in the reptile house and does daily reptile shows Monday to Friday at 11.30am and at 1pm on weekends.