10 May 2023

Lauren's more than just a snake catcher

| Cape York Weekly
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For years she has been the go-to woman for removing snakes from the yards of Weipa residents.

What many don’t know is that Lauren has two degrees, has more knowledge of the Western Cape ecosystem than most others and is now the owner of a medium-sized business with more than a dozen employees.

Not that she really cares what people know or don’t know.

“Weipa is full of gossip,” she said of the mining town she has called home for most of her life.

“People will judge you for what they think they know.”

What locals should know about Lauren is that she is hard-working and fierce.

Growing up in a mining town means you’ve got to develop a thick skin and Lauren isn’t afraid to bite back if she needs to.

However, in the last six months she’s had to readjust a little.

In September last year she bought out her former boss and took the reins of Ecotone.

Again, it’s not a well-known company among the general Weipa population, but is highly-regarded by Rio Tinto.

Ecotone is largely a contractor to the mining company, conducting field work on the mining lease to ensure that endangered, protected and vulnerable species are kept out of harm’s way as best as possible.

“I always wanted to work with animals – I didn’t know how I was going to exactly,” Lauren said of growing up in Weipa and attending Western Cape College.

After finishing Year 12 she moved to Townsville to study a Bachelor of Science and Zoology at James Cook University.

It took her a while to land her career job, though.

Lauren worked a stint at the Billabong Sanctuary, dealing with all kinds of animals – including crocodiles – before moving into surveying work.

In Weipa, she worked for Rob Roy Earthmoving and then held a steady gig with Goodline doing time sheet data entry.

Whenever she could, she worked for Ecotone to follow her passion.

“I spent so much time at Amrun back when it was still South of the Embley,” Lauren said.

“I have probably seen more of that country than any other non-Traditional Owner.”

Legislation requires Rio Tinto to ensure they are not putting species at risk before clearing land for mining and Lauren said the Weipa miner was thorough in its commitment to protecting wildlife such as the palm cockatoo, red goshawk, northern quoll and the black-footed tree rat.

“Some of the stuff we do is really cool and we get to see country that no one else gets to be on,” she said.

“Cape York has one of the most amazing ecosystems and I think we all need to understand it and appreciate it a little bit more.”

In the meantime, Lauren is still happy to be regarded as the “snake catcher lady” and often takes her employees along with her to remove the slithering creatures as a way of teaching.

Her love of snakes was born out of disappointment – after waiting patiently in line at a Hervey Bay wildlife park, Lauren was able to handle a snake briefly until it was no sooner whisked away.

“I was so disappointed I said right then that I wanted a pet snake,” she said.

As a 15-year-old she got her first pet snake, a spotted python named Thor, who still lives on today.

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