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Meet The Team

John Weigel AM

Founder and Managing Director

John Weigel was a leader in the early approaches of the Australasian zoos association to the Tasmanian Government with the offer of help in averting the extinction of the Tasmanian Devil. By 2006 he had hatched the idea of a large-scale mainland conservation breeding facility for the species. Two years later he successfully ‘sold’ the Devil Ark concept to the diverse stakeholders of a three-day IUCN-initiated workshop in Hobart. Construction of the facility at Barrington Tops commenced 18 months later.

John is also a Director of the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby NSW where he has worked since designing and building the facility with wife Robyn in 1996. In 1999, for the second year running, the Reptile Park took out the highly prestigious National Tourism Award for Australia’s best regional tourist attraction. In 2008 John was awarded the prestigious Member of the Order of Australia in 2008 in recognition of his contributions to Australian tourism and the production of life-saving snake and spider anti-venoms.

Robyn Weigel


Robyn Weigel is a Director of both Aussie Ark and the Australian Reptile Park, where she has played an instrumental role in a range of conservation initiatives over many decades. Her administration savvy has greatly enhanced the development of Aussie Ark, and her personal monetary donations to the project at the onset remain amongst the most substantial contributions to date. She and husband John are dedicated to the development and long-term maintenance of a viable insurance population of the iconic Tasmanian marsupial as well as the other species that live at the Ark.

Robyn’s work in developing and implementing methods for extracting venom from Funnel-web spiders has contributed to saving many Australian lives and was recognised by a humanitarian award from the Commonwealth Bank. In 2003 she was recognized as the Central Coast region’s Business Woman of the Year.

Tim Faulkner


Tim is a recognised leader in the Australian zoological industry and in conservation organisations worldwide. His working life has been dedicated to hands-on wildlife education and conservation. While Tim’s background includes over 20 years in the zoological community, resulting in him becoming a Co-Director of the Central Coast’s largest tourism attraction the Australian Reptile Park.

It is through his passion and knowledge of wildlife and ecology that saw Tim was recognized in 2015 when he was awarded the Australian Geographic Conservationist of the Year for his work and contribution in the conservation of the Tasmanian devil at Aussie Ark.  Tim is focused on outcomes and forming long lasting partnerships with reputable organizations with aligning objectives.

Liz Gabriel

Treasurer, Secretary and Curator

Liz is curator of two facilities – the Australian Reptile Park, and Aussie Ark.  Liz is highly motivated and focused on the continuous improvement of the facilities she manages, the wider animal industry, and innovative conservation projects within Australia. Liz is integral to the Aussie Ark team bringing 15 years of experience in areas of native and exotic animal care and husbandry, exhibit design, various state and federal legislative processes, and WHS considerations.

She has exposure in a range of animal welfare positions and is the liaising representative for two AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) facilities. She oversees the world-renowned venom production unit of the Australian Reptile Park, as well as the ongoing captive breeding program for the endangered Tasmanian devil and other species at Aussie Ark.

Hayley Shute

Conservation Manager

Hayley has over 20 years of experience with Australian native mammal, bird and reptile species with animal husbandry and welfare being her focus. Hayley graduated with a Bachelor of Science at Macquarie University. She began working in the zoological field when she was 17 years old, and quickly progressed into Management, specialising in Mammal and Bird husbandry, with strength in juvenile development and Koala Management.

Hayley has worked for various captive animal organisations beginning at the Australian Reptile Park, and while she widened her skills by also working at Wildlife Sydney, and Sydney Wonderland, she returned to the Reptile Park to oversee the entire life sciences department including animal welfare. Hayley was responsible for the implementation of a documented and through welfare assessment process at both the Reptile Park and Aussie Ark, and currently oversees all animal husbandry activities both insitu and exsitu that the Ark is involved in.

Dean Reid

Operations Manager

Dean has 11 years of experience with Australian native mammals and birds species with customer service, animal husbandry and welfare and collection management focus. Dean started as a volunteer at The Australian Reptile Park, soon after moving to casual work in customer service, on the mammals section and at Devil Ark. In 2013 he became a full-time keeper at Devil Ark, then a supervisor and then the Manager of Devil Ark for 4 years. Dean then moved back to the Australian Reptile Park as Head of Mammals and Birds looking after The Australian Reptile Park mammals and birds collection, breeding, enclosure designs and managing 35 volunteers and 4 fulltime staff.

Dean has recently come back to Aussie Ark as Operations Manager and in his words “Love what you do and you’ll never work another day in your life.”

Kelly Davis

Aussie Ark Curator

Kelly has worked in the animal industry for over 10 years.  She began her career volunteering at the Australian Reptile Park in the mammals section, which she continued doing for 8 years, offering herself for as many days a week as she could.  Kelly has always been a hard worker and showed a passion for the Tasmanian devil.  She undertook a Bachelor of Science at Macquarie University, double majoring in brain behaviour and evolution and biology, with first class honours. Kelly then went on to complete a Master of Research on Tasmanian devil behaviour.

Working at Devil Ark has always been Kelly’s dream, so when she was offered the position of Supervisor in 2017 she couldn’t be happier.  In her words “I have the best job in the world!”

Tyler Gralton

Aussie Ark Supervisor

Relatively new to the industry, Tyler began pursuing his passion for wildlife and conservation in 2018 as a volunteer in the mammal’s section at the Australian Reptile Park. While learning skills in animal husbandry, captive management, and customer service from the experienced staff, he gained a profound interest in the Australian Reptile Park’s sister organisation, Aussie Ark. After several months of hard work and good fortune, he was offered the opportunity to work as a Ranger at Aussie Ark in 2019. Since then, Tyler has invested much of his time and energy in being part of many of the conservation initiatives run by Aussie Ark. His efforts were rewarded when he was offered the position of Supervisor in early 2022.

Being part of a team that works towards recovering the natural world has been extremely fulfilling for Tyler. He looks forward to a long career with Aussie Ark, working to create healthy ecosystems for Australia’s threatened species.

Rory Francis

Aussie Ark Ranger

Rory is wildly passionate about protecting, conserving and raising awareness of Australia’s flora and fauna. His work with Aussie Ark to create innovative solutions to proactively protect whole ecosystems as well as their smaller components fuels this passion. Born and raised on a mixed farming property near Dunedoo, Central NSW surrounded by Australian bushland sparked his love for the Australian wildlife

Rory’s desire to experience wild places around the globe led him to study abroad looking to enhance his understanding of how to protect these unique and special places. Initially he trained as a Safari Guide throughout the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Rory has completed an internship monitoring and managing endangered and priority species in Zululand, South Africa. Rory has furthered his biological studies, in particular genetics, at the University of Bordeaux, France. Currently he is undertaking a Double Bachelors Degree of Commerce and Science at Macquarie University, Sydney majoring in Entrepreneurship, Finance and Environmental Management.

Whilst working with one of Aussie Ark’s partner organisations Wild Ark, Rory met the team and became a Ranger at Barrington Tops. His work focuses to not only reintroducing and conserving our targeted threatened species but all species under our protection.

Matt Helm

Aussie Ark Ranger

Matt has been a wildlife and nature lover from an early age from growing up watching Steve Irwin and David Attenborough, to running around outside chasing animals or snorkelling down at the local beach looking for octopus and wobbegong sharks. This passion has only grown stronger and has sparked his interest in playing a role in protecting and conserving Australian fauna and flora.

Matt spent 4 years after graduating high school travelling the globe and experiencing new countries, cultures and of course the local wildlife, and this allowed for him to understand the critical vulnerability of our world’s ecosystems and in particular their inhabitants. This prompted Matt to want to play his part in trying to save and conserve endangered fauna and flora and he is now currently studying at Macquarie University doing a Bachelor of Biodiversity and Conservation.

When the opportunity to join Aussie Ark arose, Matt didn’t have to think twice before signing up and beginning his lifelong mission to protect, conserve and reintroduce endangered wildlife to their native habitats. Matt is extremely excited to become a part of the Aussie Ark team and play his part in helping them achieve their conservation goals and is looking forward to a long career in creating diverse and sustainable ecosystems and habitats for Australia’s endangered fauna.

Chris Chapman

Committee of Management Member

Dip Law, Dip CIS, Dip CM, FGIA, FAICD, MBA, Barrista and Solicitor NSW, Vic, ACT, High Court of Australia.

Chris has dedicated much of his life to saving Australia’s imperiled wildlife. Chris has been a Board member of the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered (F.A.M.E), another wildlife conservation charity and not-for-profit organisation since 2005, in which he currently holds the position of President. Chris is a founding member of the organisation’s Committee of Management and member for nearly 8 years. He is recently retired from over 30 years in corporate life in the role of legal counsel and company secretary of listed and unlisted public companies. Solicitor in NSW and High Court of Australia. FAICD. Fellow Governance Institute/Company Secretaries Australia.

Caroline Lees

Committee of Management Member

Caroline works for the IUCN SSC Conservation Planning Specialist Group (CPSG) as a conservation planning facilitator and wildlife population modeller and is Co-Convener of CPSG for Australasia. For over thirty years, CPSG has supported diverse groups of stakeholders to plan the conservation of threatened species. In 2016, at the request of the SSC Chair, CPSG took up the challenge of facilitating an increase in the SSC’s involvement in planning, with a focus on responding to the needs of governments as they work to conserve and protect their biodiversity. Through the taskforce Caroline will help to maintain a connection between CPSG’s species planning advice, tool development and capacity building work, and the higher-level strategic advice being developed by the IUCN SSC to inform the CBD’s post-2020 agenda for global species conservation.

Scott Elwin

Committee of Management Member

Scott is a chartered accountant with more than 17 years accounting experience specialising in the provision of compliance, tax and advisory services to private business owners. Scott worked for 10 years in Sydney CBD chartered accounting firms and in commercial roles in multinational companies based in London.

Scott is a founding partner of Kelly + Partners Central Coast.

Matt Radnidge

Committee of Management Member

Matt is the Director of Symbio Wildlife Park and has led the business through the transition of the last 10 years. He has designed a number of award-winning exhibits and facilities within Symbio and consistently aims for very high standards across all facets of the business.

Matt has been successful in applying for state and federal government funding a number of times, and was recognised as Young Business Executive of the Year for the Illawarra Business Awards in 2015.

Matt was instrumental in the partnership between Aussie Ark and Symbio Wildlife Park, and brings a wealth of knowledge in captive animal management and business operation to the Committee of Management.

Brad Walker

Committee of Management Member

For over 30 years Brad Walker has dedicated his life to fauna & flora and has extensive herpetology, reptile, amphibian and captive animals background. Brad is the Director of Global Wildlife Training  & Senior trainer and assessor NTM National Training Masters as well as being a  member of the Australian Society of Zookeeping Society (ASZK) and has worked closely with dasyurids, with a focus on tiger quolls. Brad has had an extensive background in Animal Ethics for the past 20 years and has fulfilled the Category C member (Welfare representative) on three separate Animal Ethics committees.

Brad worked at Featherdale Wildlife Park for 18 years as the Senior Curator managing 2,500 animals and 30 staff. An important part of his role was collection management and working with threatened species. After leaving Featherdale he worked as a part-time teacher for the Animal Science section before accepting the Head Teachers position of Animal Science at Richmond College of TAFE NSW. His portfolio included co-ordinating all compliance as a registered training organization, animal welfare, ethics regulations and compliance matters. Brad is qualified in Captive Animals Certificate III and IV, has a Dip Ed VET, is a qualified landscape and exhibit designer with a Diploma in Landscape Design amongst many other industry skills.

Aussie Ark Patrons

Paul Andrew

Aussie Ark Patron

Paul was the Science and Policy Manager at Aussie Ark. This followed a 20 year career as curator at Taronga Zoo and, most recently, two years in Ha Noi volunteering for local NGOs.

Paul served on the Australasian Species Management Program (ASMP) Committee, including the role of Chair, been Convener of the Reptile TAG, and has overseen several native species as Co-ordinator in the Zoo and Aquarium Association of Australia (ZAA) where he remains Taxonomy Advisor and International Co-ordinator for Koala.

Paul’s interests were meta-population management and the rhetoric of welfare. With regard to meta-populations Paul was a member of Conservation Planning Specialist Group and currently Chair of the Bilby Meta-population Working Group. The interest in the rhetoric of welfare stemmed from a year doing a research Masters at Melbourne University and centres on how to value the life of an animal.

Bruce Kubbere

Aussie Ark Patron

Bruce Kubbere studied Australian fauna from his early childhood and with his vision and commitment to promoting Australian fauna to the public, opened Featherdale Wildlife Park in 1972. In the early years, Bruce and his wife Margaret, operated a plant nursery in conjunction with the Wildlife Park. This still remains today with beautiful Australian native trees and plants lining the walkways and throughout the enclosures as a legacy of the park’s history.

Bruce’s knowledge and experience in wildlife management is extensive and he has been a long term and passionate supporter of the Ark since its inception in 2011.