Have you ever wondered what it might be like to work as a ranger for a national park?
Meet Pip Carboon, ranger at Yanchep National Park. She is one of those incredible people that made the seemingly universal childhood dream of working with animals and nature come true!
Pip has dedicated over a decade of her life to caring for Yanchep National Park and all its inhabitants, and knows the park like the back of her hand. Read on to learn about Pip’s ranger journey and what she loves most about Yanchep National Park.
A day in the life of a ranger
So, what can a day in the life of a park ranger entail?
While much of it is great fun, Pip explained that there’s a lot of arduous, physical work that needs to be done, with tasks like fence repairing, preparing for prescribed burns and removing feral pests (animals and/or plants) on the list of daily duties.
Pip also manages and monitors the impact of our urban footprint on the park, and helps people understand the importance of caring for Yanchep.
“There’s quite a big recreation component to what we do as well. So, we’re trying to guide people to engage with the natural environment as a natural environment. You know, the whole idea of leaving no trace – you take only photos, you leave only footprints – is obviously very important as well,” she said.
Where it all began
Pip’s ranger journey began early on, with exposure to the career coming through multiple family members.
“Rangering runs in my family a bit. I’ve got two older cousins that were rangers. And my father also worked for the Department [of Parks and Wildlife] many years ago. So, there’s always been a bit of a history of environmental, operational style roles.”
As she got older and started considering her career path, Pip decided that the duties of rangering were exactly what she was looking for, and she got ball rolling.
“We [rangers] deal a lot with nature conservation projects, compliance and facilities, public interaction and all sorts of stuff. And when I was looking at what I would potentially want to do, those things seemed to fit well.
I did a couple of weeks of work experience, and that basically set me on my path. In terms of formal study, I’ve done my Certificate II, III and IV in Conservation and Land Management, through the TAFE system.”
A very special park
Having been at Yanchep National Park for over a decade, we had to ask Pip what has kept her there for so long, and why it’s such a popular destination.
“They talk about WA or the Southwest as being a biodiversity hotspot. And there are lots of examples within Yanchep National Park where we can show you that.
We’ve got patches of jarrah. We’ve got patches of tuart. We’ve got banksia woodlands which are totally different again. And then within those areas, you get different plants and animals as well. So, we can really show you a good spectrum of flora and fauna, and everything else!”
A lot of what Pip loves about working at Yanchep is her surrounds – both the natural world, and the people around her.
“The natural environment itself is very impressive. In terms of a workplace, it’s pretty stunning. The history with the koala colony is also very special to me. I’ve worked very closely with them for the entire time I’ve been here. In the last five years, I’ve been directly responsible for them, which is great and very scary at the same time!
But it’s also about the staff that are based here. Julia Coggins is our Park Manager. She has been in the Park for something like 15 years. Senior Ranger Mark Varley has been here for about 11 years and in the district for much longer. It’s really important to have those key people that really care about the physical environment,” she said.
Enjoying some koala-ty time
The koalas at Yanchep National Park are the only colony in WA living in an almost natural environment. Leading the care of these furry creatures, Pip said that one of the most important factors in keeping the colony going is replicating their natural habitat.
“They only eat very specific varieties of eucalyptus, and only a couple of those are native to WA. So, the physical maintenance of their feed plantations can be quite demanding. But it means we can provide them with different species during different times, in varying quantities, and that’s what they would get in the wild.”
By providing a variety of high-quality foods, the issue of ‘food stress’ that wild koalas often face is removed for the Yanchep residents, and they can end up living for an extra five to ten years! In fact, the koalas are so accustomed to getting their delicious fresh food every morning, that they can even get a bit pushy. “I get chased regularly when I bring out their food,” Pip said with a laugh.
It’s also important that the koalas have plenty of opportunities to climb, as they do in the wild. Pip explained, “they’re very dependent on their climbing ability. If you restrict them from that, that can directly affect their health and overall conditioning.”
Pip recalled one female koala who was an expert climber and escape artist. Her first introduction to Lyptus (sister of Euca) was in the quarantine area, after she had managed to escape the enclosure yet again.
“They couldn’t figure out how she was doing it, until one day when she was witnessed mid-escape. It turned out that Lyptus was climbing up some of the smaller trees within the enclosure, and she had learned that if she used her weight to lean them over, she could get down onto the boardwalk. And she was doing that quite routinely! They’re so much smarter than we ever give them credit for.
When we knew how she was doing it, we were finally able to properly secure the enclosure, so she couldn’t escape anymore.”
Another positive change for the Yanchep koalas came with a change in management styles back in the early 2000s.
“We’ve had a colony ever since 1938. And through that time, management styles have changed, and belief systems have changed. We were handling the koalas for photos through the late 90s and early 2000s, and then realised that obviously it wasn’t very good for the animals. So, we’ve gone away from that. And now they’re in what I would describe as an almost totally natural enclosure.”
Pip’s favourite place
With an area of almost 29km2, Yanchep National Park has plenty of spots to explore! We asked Pip for one of her favourites, which we now can’t wait to visit in wildflower season (September – November).
“I’m a very avid orchid hunter. During the orchid season, I love looking for them. For that, I visit The Woodlands Walk Trail, which is a beautiful short trail.
We’ve got one species in the park called the midge orchid, which is about five centimetres tall when it’s fully grown. And the actual flower is smaller than your pinkie finger. Then there’s the tuarts that are big and gnarly and strong as all hell. So, you’ve got the extremes in the flora along the trail, which is amazing.”
Nature Play WA would like to thank Ranger Pip Carboon for taking the time to chat with us and share her extensive knowledge about Yanchep National Park. For resources that can help you plan your trip to a national park near you (including Yanchep), visit the Every Kid in a Park section of our website.