CROCODILES and prehistoric cassowaries are all in a day's work for wildlife ranger Tom Lawton – who is shaping up to be the county's very own Steve Irwin.
The Hartpury graduate is taking on some of Australia's most dangerous wildlife in his day-to-day role with the Department for Environment and Heritage Protection in Queensland.
Some of the crocodiles on Tom's patch can reach five metres in length. Cassowaries are indigenous birds the size of an ostrich – with a fearsome talon capable of skewering small rodents.
Tom is crazy about wildlife and travelled Down Under in 2003 and began volunteering at Australia Zoo.
He graduated from Hartpury College in 2007 and then left the UK to begin his new career as a wildlife ranger, following in the footsteps of crocodile hunter Irwin.
"I have always been interested in wildlife, especially reptiles," said Tom.
"Crocodile management involves population surveys and monitoring, assessments and the capture and removal of crocodiles of concern.
"We are currently conducting a joint research project with the University of Queensland where we are tracking southern cassowaries and releasing sub adult birds from our rehabilitation centre with radio trackers.
"I was sponsored by Australia Zoo in November 2007 as a crocodile research assistant and I worked with a variety of native Australian wildlife.
"I went on two crocodile research trips to the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Far North Queensland where we caught estuarine crocodiles and implanted acoustic radio transmitters and satellite trackers to monitor their seasonal movements and behaviour patterns.
"My student experiences at Hartpury were fantastic. The campus is small which I found to be a great thing, it made my university experience a lot more personal.
"Gloucester is a great place for a student to be based and the surrounding countryside is beautiful. I made some great mates there who I still keep in touch with.
"Hartpury provided me with opportunities that other universities could not: personalised study programmes, small lecture groups which allowed one to one teaching opportunities.
"My learning experience has allowed me to get to where I am today. It has opened doors and shown me the importance of research and report writing, elements I use daily in my current role.
"My lecturers were great and supportive of my unusual career path and allowed me to base some of my coursework around Australian conservation and crocodiles."