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The best job in the world

Telling stories about the animal kingdom is more than just a dream way to make a living, writes Ruby Alexander

“Straight up I realise I have, actually, the best job in the world.”

Among chirping birds and exotic animal calls lies the office of Rick Hammond, the dedicated and passionate digital producer and videographer at Zoos Victoria. Hammond travels around Victoria to tell the stories of wildlife through his photos and videos. 

Hammond has worked for Zoos Victoria for almost a decade as the first in-house video producer, capturing animal releases and unique perspectives.

“I'm so lucky to have this role, I get to make animal videos every day and it's so varied,” Hammond said. 

"Being able to actually show how cool they are," is one of the reasons Rick Hammond loves his job capturing wildlife on camera. (Photo: Ruby Alexander)

Hammond always saw himself working at the zoo. As a kid he wanted to be a reptile keeper He eventually got into an education role at the zoo, working with school groups while making videos on the side. Zoo Victoria ended up creating a role for Hammond, making him the only in-house video producer across the three zoos at the time.

Curating videos and digital stories for Melbourne, Healesville, and Werribee zoos, Hammond tells the unique stories of animals through his camera lens and unveils the hidden gems of wildlife that are often overlooked.

“Animals people wouldn't notice, or people wouldn't care about and being able to actually show how cool they are and how every animal’s got importance and value and worth saving” are the stories he loves to tell.

Phoebe Burns releasing a Pookila. (Photos; Rick Hammond)

Working with conservation teams, Hammond raises awareness for endangered species.

For a recent project, Hammond travelled to Wilson's Promontry to capture the release of Pookila into the wild, a classified endangered species according to Zoos Victoria that is extinct in seven of its 12 known locations in Victoria.

“Gorgeous little rodent” Hammond said  “We’re releasing them back into the wild to improve the genetics of the wild population down there and it's a great story”.

Native Rodent Biologist at Zoos Victoria, Dr Phoebe Burns, recalls working with Hammond at the Pookila release.

“Rick has come out as a videographer on a bunch of our Pookila monitoring release work and filmed some really special moments with our first ever Pookila release at Wilsons Prom a couple weeks ago," she said.

Burns described Hammond as “amazing to work with”.

Hammond was "very respectful of the animals and respectful of the process".

She shared nan anecdote of the recent trip to Wilson’s Prom.

“Just after dusk, so it's quite dark, we’ve gotta light up the mice exiting their nest boxes with red light head torches and it's an incredibly difficult thing to film and Rick was doing an amazing job with that, where you open up the nest box and then you’ve gotta wait like 20 minutes or more for the mice to decide to emerge," she recalls.

"So it starts absolutely pouring with rain and Rick is just like very stoically sitting there, crouched there in an awkward position in the pouring rain in the dark like focused perfectly on these little mouse nest box holes waiting for them to emerge, so very dedicated to the cause and he's suffered a lot for it but yeah got incredible footage.”

Rick Hammond (and friends) at work. (Photos: Supplied)

Hammond believes his work matters, beyond the pleasure it brings.

“I would say it's a really important field to work in. I’ve found my tribe here, it's one of those places you build those kinda relationships with people and then you can tell the story so much better. I definitely recommend it as a career if you can get it."


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