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Episode #3 of The Cold-blooded Contributions Podcast with Josh Fastuca

Updated: Jun 5

Josh Fastuca: episode #3,

Recorded: 2.4.24 Aired: 26.4.24

All images supplied by Josh Fastuca.




SE: G’day. Welcome to the 3rd episode of the Cold-Blooded Contributions podcast, which is part of the MPR network. We're your host, the Eippers. I'm Scott Eipper and with me is Tie Eipper. This podcast will bring to you people in the hobby who have made an impact on us creatively, be it artistically, with information, or even improving your husbandry.


TE: We're lucky enough to have Josh Fastuca with us today.


Joshua Fastuca - Cold-blooded Contributions Podcast episode #3


JF: Oh, that's my cue. Yeah. Hi.


TE: Josh. I realize we're a bit behind, but we're good to go now.


SE: Technology certainly hasn't been our bloody friend tonight. That's for sure. G’day, Josh.


JF: How are we all?


TE: Good. How are you?


JF: Yeah. Good. Good. I suppose I'll give a little intro to who I am for those that maybe haven't heard of me as of yet. I suppose, we'll start with the Uni definition of where I'm at at the moment. It’s a career starter, in the sense that, I am currently completing a degree in wildlife and conservation biology at Deakin down here in Melbourne. I've been a private keeper of reptiles, for the last 6 or 7 years now, I think. And I work as an animal technician at a local high school, which for those in Melbourne, you might have heard of Lilydale High School and Templestowe. It's not either of those 2. It's a Catholic school, down here out in the west of Melbourne.


TE: How did you get into reptiles, Josh?


JF: It's one of those funny ones. I suppose I'll start by saying a lot of people, when they see me, particularly at reptile expos, I'll usually have my setup and have my dad with me. And, people often go and talk to him first thinking that he's the one behind it all, which is quite ironic because he just does the smile and wave and point at me. So it wasn't a family thing. It wasn't a passed down through generations type thing that some people have experienced.



Josh Fustaca with his Dad, Cold-blooded contributions Podcast, episode 3
Josh and his Dad at the 2024 VHS expo

For me, it started very, very early on with a keen interest in dinosaurs and that sort of naturally flowed onto reptiles. But it really just started as me growing up, watching lots of wildlife documentaries. It was predominantly Steve Irwin, David Attenborough, and Steve Backshall, things like that, which was really where I sort of started that passion. And instead of watching kids cartoons all day, that's what I was watching growing up. And then, as I sort of got a little bit older, some of my mom's work friends decided to go on a holiday. At the time they had some turtles and a Shingleback and a Blue Tongue. And I didn't really realize that reptiles as pets was a thing that people did. That was not something that I'd experienced. I've been to the zoo a bunch of times and seen that side of things and thought that was, you know, the main thing that people do, and then you just have a dog or a cat or maybe a fish as a pet at home. But they needed somebody to look after those animals. And knowing that I was passionate about reptiles, they asked me to do it. They kept mentioning this reptile store in Hoppers Crossing and at one point, I went, “Alright, Mum, let's go and have a look.” Sure enough that turned out to be a shop run by Adam Sapiano, who is now the president of the VHS, and I believe would have been at the time as well. So it sort of snowballed from there. I came home with my first Blotched Blue Tongue, who I still have today. And then within, I think, a year or two, it snowballed to upwards of 10 Blue tongues and then sort of shifted around a few times from there to where it is today. But, yeah, it was very much a very quick build up process. And I was very lucky that it started with the VHS and the people involved there, because it gave me a really good sort of foundation to go off. And I was starting the right way, rather than whether it's starting with wild animals or, starting with setups that aren't quite where they need to be. I was introduced to what was required from the get go, which really gave me a good foundation to move on from there.


Blotched Blue Tongue with offspring, Cold-blooded Contributions Podcast episode 3 with Josh Fastuca
Josh's Blotched Bluey with offspring.


TE: The VHS has a wonderful family feeling to it. It's all inclusive. It really is a great herp society.


SE: Yeah. I think the VHS, I mean, that that sort of feeling in the VHS was really fostered by Brian Barnett, back in the seventies and eighties, and it's just sort of been maintained pretty much all the way through, which is pretty awesome. I was a member of the VHS from 1987 onwards. So, a little while. What else are you keeping these days, Josh? You said you got a Blotched Blue Tongue that you've had since the start. What other critters are you working with?


JF: It's been a bit of a process of I suppose, evolution is probably a good way to put it.


SE: Refinement mate, refinement.


JF: Yeah. That's probably a better way to put it. I started off very heavy into Blue Tongue morphs and stuff like that, and I'm still lucky to be very good friends with Joe Ball, who at the time had come down to Victoria to do a talk at the VHS, which sort of lined up perfectly with me starting to get into reptiles and going, that's so cool. Look at all those colours. So that's where I sort of started. And then I sort of started to shift towards locality stuff. So I started looking at Murray Darling Carpet python localities and that side of things. And then it sort of got to a point where I was in year 12 and had a lot more Blue Tongues than I needed and a lot more animals than I needed. I went, “This is not conducive to what I wanna do down the track.” So I've sort of spent the last probably 18 months to 2 years cutting down the collection to what I think is a sustainable level these days. Inside in the family shed which I took over which is a whole other story that we can circle back to, I have 3 adult Murray Darling Carpet pythons and a young Woma python that I just got at the last expo just gone.


Josh Fastuca's Murray Darling Carpet Python, Cold-blooded Contributions Podcast episode 3
Josh's favourite species, and his pet Murray Darling Carpet python


SE: So the cutting down is working out for you?


JF: Almost. Yeah. I suppose I managed to sell a few things on the day, so I feel like it balances out as a net negative. That’s the way I put it at least.


TE: Let's go with that. Yeah.


SE: Justify it any way you like, mate.


JF: That's it. Yeah. And then outside, I've got a group of King Skinks, a pair of Eastern Water Dragons, trio of Land Mullets, and 2 Blotchies still.


SE: So you got rid of the multifasciata?


JF: I did. I've put them in some very capable hands of one of my best mates. He's got a group of 4 of them now, so hopefully, he'll be able to get them going. We did try again this year. I was lucky enough to get them going last year, but there was no dice this time around. But I think, either next year or the year after, they should be good to go again. Hopefully, with 2 pairs on the go, there should be a few more of them out and about.


SE: Did you have any issues with RI with those? They're a species that is so susceptible to RI.


JF: Yeah. It's an interesting one. I had previous to getting them and throughout the process of having them, spoke to a number of people that had kept them or have got them currently. And there was definitely recurring themes of they can be a difficult blue tongue to keep. I genuinely treated them just like anything else and didn't have any issues with them whatsoever. The only issue that we did come across very early on was offering live foods. They had a tendency to accidentally bite each other. And because their skin seems to be pretty soft compared to a Northern or an Eastern Blue Tongue or a Blotchie even. They tend to, or tended to, have negative reactions to that, which resulted in sort of temporary skin/scale loss and things like that where they'd have open wounds and stuff so you have to treat that. But outside of that, there was never really any issues with them.


SE: I kept them for years, and I think they're probably the most savage Blue Tongues that are on the face of the planet. For the listeners, we're talking about Centralian Blue Tongues, Tiliqua multifasciata. They're a species that's kept, I'd say relatively uncommonly in Australia and less commonly overseas. But they're an incredible looking animal and, they are  sort of problematic, it seems, quite often. There's a lot of people who have trouble with them, particularly with pairing as well. Certainly, we had some issues pairing them. The males and the females, if the females aren't receptive, they can respond pretty savagely towards the males. And two males, if they don't get along, they can be fairly savage towards each other as well. Did you have any issues with, pairing or anything like that with them?


JF: No. I think I was just, in all honesty, I was incredibly lucky with the pair that I had, in the sense that, they just seem to be okay in together. And the way that I initially bred them last year was by keeping them together for the better part of probably 9 months just about. Basically, from before they start cooling to, once they finished breeding and the female looked a bit beaten up, that was when I sort of went, okay. I'll split them up now.


Josh Fastuca's Centralian Blue Tongues, Cold-blooded Contributions Podcast episode 3
Josh's Centralian Blue Tongues

And then it was just a waiting game from there. I think it was either them or the Westerns that were born on Christmas Eve, and that was like the perfect present. I was like, yep, fantastic. I'm so stoked with that. And, that year, I had a lot of family coming around because, big Italian family, we do a big Christmas Eve. And so I had all the young cousins coming out. I was like, “Look at this thing.” And they were like, “Yeah, it's cool. It's a little lizard. Okay.” And I'm like, “Yeah, but you don't understand, look how cool it is!”

SE: Where are your occipitalis from?


JF: They were South Australian locality animals. I believe they all came from, is it Rick Walker I wanna say? From, the bearded dragons…..


SE: Oh, yeah. Over in South Australia?


JF: Yeah. I tracked them down from a few different places. One of my mates brought in the first one from directly from South Oz, and he decided after a little while that he wasn't overly keen on keeping them long term. So I went, “Alright. Well, if you if you don't want it, I'll have it and see what I can do.” And then I had a very good mate of mine, Danny Dreis, who was moving. At the time he was living in Yulara in Central Australia, near, Uluru and he was moving the family up to tropical Cairns, I believe, and had to cut down his animals. So I, like a kid in the candy store, basically just sent him a list of ideas of what I would like to buy off him and sort of walked into the freight place and went, “Here's my esky full of animals. This is the best day of my life.” Came home and opened it up. There was, between myself and one of my mates, four Centralian Blueys and I bought three Westerns and some Centralian Carpet Pythons as well. So it was all of this orange and cool stuff. I was like, “Oh, this is the best.”


SE: So the occipitalis are all from South Oz or did you get some Yulara ones and Uluru's in there as well?


JF: No. They were just the South Oz animals. Yeah. I had the opportunity to get some, Yulara stock a couple years ago, but I decided that I should probably pay for my Uni fees instead, unfortunately.


TE: Adulting sucks, doesn't it?


JF: Yeah. It took me a lot of consideration. No. It's probably a better idea.


SE: Those Uluru ones are bloody stunning too. They're probably among the nicest ones along with the Victorian occipitalis as well. The ones that you get in Big Desert are some of the prettiest going around, I think.


JF: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve seen some photos recently from people that have found the Victorian ones and you look at them and go “Oh, those are incredible.” I'd love to go and see them. I haven't been up to Big Desert yet, but it's definitely on the list.


SE: I know Deakin used to do some field technique stuff in Little Desert. So maybe, as part of Uni, you might be able to go out there and do some technique work out there.


JF: Yeah. That's it. Fingers crossed. We do have a little desert trip planned. I think it's next year, the second half of the year we go out there. I spent some time helping with a research project out there. Not the summer that is just ending at the moment, the one before that. And, yeah, it was an awesome part of the country and very different habitat to what I'm used to down here in the southwest. It was very cool to see and such an awesome array of animals out there as well.


SE: Yeah. Fair enough. So, I suppose that leads us on to the next question. What was your favourite herp trip that you've been on so far?


JF: There's two that come to mind. One was, one that I had organized, and the other one was one that I was just a part of. The one that I organized was, one out to a spot in in northwest Victoria looking for Murray Darling Carpet pythons. I had gone to this spot for probably, I think, six times before we eventually found the target species.


SE: Was that a Boulenger skink that the target species or a striped skink?


JF: No. It was, the Murray Darling carpets that were the main one. Luckily. I tell you, going out there for  people that don't know, that's about a 6 hour round trip to do that. And I had done it more times than I could count just about. And, certainly, patience does pay off. It also helps when you go with people that know what they're doing, and don't just try and take a guess at what's gonna work. But, yeah, that was probably the main one for me is the one that I was sort of involved in organizing. But the favourite, favourite trip was out to Central Australia. Again, same summer as the Little Desert trip. So not the one just gone, the one before that. I was lucky enough to be picked as one of a group of about 30 odd, through Uni, to do a Central Australia study tour.

And that was just an unreal experience, being in that part of the world with a group of people that are all so passionate about nature and wildlife and that sort of thing. And, you'd walk along and someone would say “Oh there's that cool plant”, “There's that cool bird” and then I go, “There's that cool reptile.” The last morning we were there, we got up really early to see sunrise over Uluru and I was still half asleep, the last one off the bus. One of my friends that I was walking with checked out a little group chat, there was a text going, there's a snake up here. We don't know what it is. I went “Alright, I guess I'm running this morning.” So up I went to go and have a look at what it was. And one of my mates goes “Look, we're not overly confident what this is, and whether it's a Brown snake or a Woma Python, we just waited until you were here to figure out what it is.” I took one look and went, “Oh, shit. That's a Woma. That's something people don't find every day.” So I took some photos of it, which is awesome, and very quickly sent them to the guys at the VHS.


woma python, episode 3 cold-blooded contributions podcast with josh Fastuca
Woma python from the trip


They had been up a couple of weeks prior and, very quickly got responses back from the people going, “You're a dick. We didn't find that. You did.” So, yeah, that one panned out pretty well for me in the end.


TE: What's your best find so far on a herp trip?


JF: It has to be the Murray. The perseverance with that one and finally, yeah, finally going and finding one and having a group of mates that were there that were also looking for the same thing. It all panned out pretty well and was, certainly a day that I won't forget anytime soon.


SE: So did you find it or did one of your mates find it?


JF: For both the Woma and the Murray, I cannot take credit for actually finding them. I was just lucky enough to be there when they did.



SE: Fair enough. Fair enough. Well, if you're there, it's all part of it, isn't it? So, was the Murray Darling entering the day or was it at night?


JF: Yeah. Actually, it was a daytime one, which, was a bit of a surprise. That spot in particular, people tend to find them either in the early morning – a time before it gets too hot and then either into the night. We've done both previously, to very limited success. But, yeah, this time around, just for whatever reason, it was just the perfect day for it.

And sure enough, one of my mates was walking along with went “Oh, shit. That's a Murray.” I looked at him and went, “No. You're kidding, aren't you? We we've done this so many times. There's no way.” And he went, “No. You wanna get up here now?” Alright. Up I came, and sure enough, there it was.


SE: Yeah. I've got them during the day in rock crevices at Mount Meg and places like that. They do turn up occasionally during the day, but then we've also got them crossing roads at night and stuff like that. One of the prettiest ones I've ever seen on the way back from Narromine not too long ago, and it had been smooshed by a bloody car, which was pretty disappointing. But the interesting thing with that was the amount of orange, it was like those ones that you get in the northern half of their range, Western Queensland, but this one was in Western New South Wales. They're pretty incredible animals to see in the scrub, that's for sure.


JF: Yeah. And they they're one of those ones that just seem to keep you guessing every time you think you've got them worked out, as far as what you expect them to look at when you find one, and where you find them and people put up photos of where they found them. They really do just keep you guessing every time.


TE: Yes. This is a me question, and Scott's gonna eye roll, but what's the what's the silliest injury you've done on a herp trip?


JF: Oh, I have been very lucky in the sense that I haven't managed to break any bones or anything like that. I haven't had any hospital trips.


TE: You're still young, there’s time.


JF: That's it. Yeah. Well, there was one day where I, probably to my own detriment, was wearing steel cab work boots and was on the descent from one Murray spot, which is quite hilly. And I'm not an expert climber by any means, nor am I overly comfortable going up or down hills. If I can avoid it, I will.


TE: I hear you there.


JF: Yeah. I started my descent and must have clipped the back of my foot and sort of went to tumble a few steps. And, luckily, managed to regain my footing relatively quickly. Otherwise, I would have been probably still rolling down the hill now.


SE: You still descended?


JF: Yeah. Well, that's it. Yeah. I still got there in one piece luckily, but very quickly, one of my mates went “Are you okay or are we gonna have to watch you every time you go down now?”


SE: You should have said “No. I need to be carried. So they have to carry you down.


TE: You’ll learn Josh, you’ll learn.


JF: Have to remember that for next time!


TE: I remember the time we were going down a hill in Bali, and it was steep. And I just looked at Scott, and I'm like, “Like, fuck I'm gonna make that down there in one piece.” He's like, “You'll be fine. If you fall, aim for my legs.” I fell. I aimed for his legs, took him out, and he's like “Why did you aim for my legs?” Like, you told me to. I was pretty scared to fall to the bottom, to be honest. There was really, unattractive stuff at the bottom.


JF: Well, you're just practicing a slide tackle. You know? You're just a soccer player in another lifetime. Right?


TE: Let's go with that. Yes.


SE: It was the sewage and the toilet paper and all the rest of it in the bottom of the creek.


TE: That didn't worry me as much as the tiles, all the broken tiles and the like, on the way down.


JF: Yeah. No. It doesn't sound like the best concoction to be falling into. That's for sure.


SE: Well, it wasn't too bad. I mean, we found three, Vipers within about 15 minutes. So, you know, it was certainly worthwhile.


JF: Yeah. Fair enough.


SE: I remember the Vipers. I don't really remember the falling.


TE: I remember the falling. It hurt. I remember both actually.


SE: What's been the proudest moment that you've had so far? Is it something to do with the field, or you reckon it's, popping out those occopaltis or the multifasciata, or what? What's your big deal? What are proud of?


JF: It's a very good question. There's probably a a few different things that come to mind, and I'll do them in 3 parts because they represent different parts of what I am doing at the moment. The first one is the private keeping side of things. Definitely between the Centralian Blue Tongues, the Western Blue Tongues, and Murray Darling Carpet last year.

Those will always be highlights for me, for the private keeping side of things. All three were species that I dreamed about keeping, and eventually breeding. And to manage to get two out of the three in the same year, was an awesome experience.



SE: Did you collect the data?


JF: I probably should have looking back at it. I did not.


SE: I've told you about this before.


JF: I was gonna say there was a few people that had told me to do that. That was probably a slight oversight of too much excitement on my part.


SE: It's easy to do, mate. It really is. It’s all well and good looking back on, I should've kept the bloody data on that. And then next thing you know, it's a week and a half down the road. I shouldn't do those weights now.


JF: Yeah. That's it. But, otherwise, I think for me, as part of what I do for a job at the moment, we've been able to create - although it's still in its infancy, a student zookeeper style program, where the kids get to come in and whether it's design a tank or just simply play with an animal for a lunchtime, every couple of weeks. Seeing how the kids have developed their skill set and knowledge from basically what was an idea that I had as a year 8 who was lucky enough to visit a Lillydale High School in its peak and see what the potential was of that, and then being able to help bring a version of that into the school now and seeing it really starting to flourish has been something that I'm very, very happy about. I don't take credit for starting, you know, really going with it. It was a combination of people that were a part of the process. But, yeah, that was something that's stands out to me as a professionally, something that I'm very proud of because it certainly took, quite a lot of effort and time to get it to where it is today, and I'm sure it will continue to evolve into the future or at least I certainly hope it does, from this point on. And then, also, I think, more towards where I'm aiming to, I think, with both my career aspirations and things like that. All of the different field work projects that I've helped with and field trips that I've been on, herping trips. Although you may not always find what you're looking for, they're always a bit of fun, and that's definitely something that I'm very fortunate to be a part of in many different ways and means. Certainly, being able to contribute to two different research projects. One of which I have been lucky enough to see a talk from the person that was doing the research and see what data that we collected has contributed to and will continue to, definitely gives you a very warm fuzzy feeling. Being able to sit in a lecture theatre and with a bunch of people that you've never met before and don't know from a bar of soap, and seeing your name feature on one of those slides as being a part of the data collection process was a very, very cool feeling.


TE: And how old are you, Josh? You wanna share that with everyone?


JF: Yeah. I am, all of 20 years old at the moment.


TE: That is awesome. And when I ask that, I also wanna touch back. The support your parents give you is awesome.


josh and his mum fishing - Cold-blooded Contributions podcast, episode 3
Josh and his mum

JF: Yes. Absolutely.


TE: You are so lucky there. You really are. Your dad's adorable. He's just, “Come talk to me.” He shares your passion, but, obviously, lets everyone know it's you and not him. And your Mum. Your Mum's lovely too. You're so lucky to have that.


JF: Yeah. Definitely. The initial stages certainly took a bit of convincing to get to get Mum behind the idea, particularly, when I decided that snakes where what I wanted to have at home. Took a bit more convincing than the lizard side of things. But yeah, basically from that day on, I really cannot fault their enthusiasm and support for what it is that I do. They make everything possible for me, particularly when it comes to when I go on field trips and herping trips and things like that. They make sure everything's okay here, and it’s part of the reason why I looked at cutting down the collection - to make it easier for them when I do go away on different trips and things like that. But I'm so, so very lucky to have the absolutely incredible support network that I do at home. It makes my life so much easier.

And finally, there's a little bit of a story, a side tangent here. When I just started learning how to talk, I looked at Mum and Dad and said “You know, I picked you guys.” I still don't know what that really means today. But in the context of what I'm doing now, it makes a lot of sense because when I look at the family around me outside of Mum and Dad, my aunties and uncles and things like that, on either side of the family, if I had the passion that I do and it wasn't my mom and dad that were the people that had me and brought me into the world, I certainly wouldn't be where I am now. When I talk about the snakes and lizards with anybody else, it's a very different reaction that I get.


SE: I'll say this, your parents had it easy. My parents had to deal with venomous snakes.


JF: That was established very, very early on. One of my Mum's rules basically from day dot was nothing that can put you in hospital, and nothing venomous. So that basically took out, any large monitors, crocs, and, yeah, your venomous snakes, which were the main ones. And I was more than happy to oblige with that.


SE: My parents had that rule, but it didn't work.


TE: Obviously, there was a respectful child, and there was an unrespectful child.


SE: Say it's determined. That's all.


JF: That's it. I certainly don't take any real risks, or anything like that. If they make the rules, I'm happy to follow them nine times out of ten. Although the tattoo is a different story, that that caused a few eyebrows. But outside of that, I follow the rules.


SE: Oh, you can't not let that one out of the bag and not go into that a little bit further. So in other words, you were told that you weren't allowed to get a tattoo. Is that the case? So what did you get?


JF: I've got two Yellow-tail Black Cockatoos and the date of my aunties passing away on my arm, which was just a recent addition to my arm as of a couple weeks ago. And I knew full well whether I told Mum and Dad or not their reactions were going to be the same. So I decided that I was going to bite the bullet and ask for forgiveness instead of permission, which whether that was a good choice or not, I don't really know. It certainly wasn't at the time when I told them after the fact. It didn't help that I came home at 11 o'clock on a Saturday night and both were pretty much asleep on the couch and I walked in and went, “Hey, guys. Do you wanna have a look at this?”


SE: I hope you were playing Sunday bloody Sunday when you're doing that.


JF: I probably should have! Luckily for me, Dad was not a problem at all, which is sort of what I expected. I knew he was gonna be the one that was not really gonna mind too much about it. But Mum certainly looked at it and went “What the fuck have you done?” And I went “Do you want me to just grab the swag and put it in the car, and I'll go and sleep somewhere else tonight?” Fortunately, as time has gone on, she's certainly come around to the idea. Although I didn't come away completely scott free over Easter. This was the first big family gathering on Sunday with the Italian side. And most of my cousins do already have tattoos, so I figured I was gonna be okay. I should be fine. I walked over to the fridge to grab out a beer and my auntie who's also my godmother just went “Joshua Fustuca”. I thought “Oh no. This is not good.” And then walked over and she went, this is the the best line of the day. She looks at it and goes “Now of all of your cousins that have tattoos, I did not expect you to be one of the ones that would get them.” I went, “Well, this is it, it's there now.”



SE: Other than disappointing your Auntie and your Mum, what's another thing that you failed at and how did you overcome it?


JF: Oh, that's a very, very good question.


SE: Were there any critters that you had a crack at that you said that weren't for you?


JF: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. There's certainly been a few of them. Probably there's two that really stick out to me, or actually probably three. Jungle carpet pythons. I tried very briefly and realized that things that need that sort of humidity, or I don't know, they just didn't really seem to work out the way that I have kept other animals. I also found Shinglebacks were a bit of a challenge, climatically where I am. I, funnily enough, have a mate who lives 10 minutes down the road who keeps them outdoors without any issues. I tried doing outdoors and indoors with mine, and they just never really seemed to thrive with me. So I put them in different hands.


SE: Did you have Vic Ones or SA’s?


JF: They were they were Victorian animals. Funnily enough, grown outside as well. So I assumed that they would have been fine outdoors, but must have been something about the way that I was setting them up, and the way that I was keeping them that wasn't conducive to what they required.


SE: Yep.


JF: And then I tried keeping them inside for a bit and just didn't seem to work either side, so I decided that they were probably best not to be with me and with someone who could give them the appropriate time and care that they required. I dabbled in Eastern Blue Tongues as well which people often think is a great starter. Personally, I’m not a massive fan and that’s because I didn’t have a lot of success with them. Ironic as they are that pet shop animal that most people start with. But if it was me suggesting a starter, I always go to the Blotchies or the Northerns because those are the ones that I found to be the most bulletproof. But yeah, Eastern's was certainly one that I had some difficulties with in the early days.


TE: What would be your ideal species if you could keep anything?


JF: There's one big one that comes to mind, and that's, the Oenpelli pythons. Although I will probably never be able to keep them in Victoria just because of how the systems move down here. It takes them about 20 years to do something, and they'll just change names instead. But, that's probably the big one that I would love to keep and have a crack at. And I've said many times, and my parents know full well that the day that we are allowed to keep them, pretty much everything else will go and the shed will just become a tank for 2 of them. And that'll be that. For context, the shed or the reptile room is a 6 by 4 meter room that I was lucky enough to take over because I was taking up too much room in the garage, and that happened because the lizards didn't smell too good inside the house, so they got moved out there. And then Mum and Dad decided they wanted to put a car back in the garage, so they moved out of there. And then we set up the reptile room as it is now, fully insulated and with more power points than you can poke a stick at. It was very funny having a Sparky come around and look at the shit setup that I had in the garage, he just sort of had a heart attack. He went “I don't know how you haven't had a house fire yet.” I went “Alright. So we're gonna go above and beyond on the power points this time around to make sure that that doesn't happen.” Because, you know, as many of us do when starting up a reptile room, you've got to gerry rig things between seven different power points and extension leads everywhere and all that sort of thing. But, yeah, that's going back to the actual question. That's the one that I would love to keep one day, definitely.


SE: I think, I suppose they'll eventually end up coming onto the keeping schedules in both New South Wales and Victoria. I mean, obviously Gav’s bred them, and Summerville has bred them as well this year. And, I'm sure that there'll be a few more bred next year as well. And, you know, they're one of the requirements to bring animals under the schedules in Victoria and New South Wales is demonstrating successful breeding, in other states. And realistically, that can be done fairly simply these days. So I wouldn't be so surprised if OPs come onto the keeping schedules in Vic in the next time that they do a submission review. I think the last one was about 5 years ago, wasn't it?


JF: They were meant to do a review last year, but they decided that as a result of, COVID and stuff that they were just gonna extend it for another year. I haven't checked up on what's happening now, but they were waiting on the review of the Wildlife Act, which hadn't been fully updated since the seventies. 1975 was when that first came into effect, and they've done little things from there. But they were waiting on that being completely refreshed, as a result of an independent body looking at it and deciding what they were gonna do with, the submissions and things like that. And then they were gonna look at the wildlife regulations, which is the one that talks about the scheduling and licensing and all that sort of thing. So it's sort of an exhausted process in the sense that, the review of the Wildlife Act was in theory meant to be done 18 months to 2 years ago, and it's still in the works at the moment. So, I'm sure it will happen eventually, hopefully in the next five to ten years, but I wouldn't be putting a timeline on it just yet, I don't think.


SE: Yeah. Just quickly, just to touch on that for the for the people listening. In Australia, we've got some fairly significant legislation regarding the keeping of reptiles and amphibians as pets. It's not like you can just go out and buy something and keep it as a pet. You've gotta go ahead and get a license. Essentially, the animals attract through various licensing systems and schedules, you've got to apply to have a certain license that allows you to keep various species and do various things with animals.


TE: And it differs state by state.


SE: It differs state by state, it started off as an idea to aid in conservation. With the exception of maybe limiting a few animals being poached out of the wild, it's conservation value is probably debatable, and it certainly has been debated previously in the past. But, I mean, it's good that people can't just go out and get animals on a whim I suppose either, it does actually sort of stop the impulse buying of animals, I suppose. So there is some benefits to it, but, it is quite different to what it is over in in Europe or the United States and, and Asia and some places like that.


 TE: What's the best bit of advice you've been given?


JF: Oh, I think one of the big ones, when I was sort of starting out, and it's probably something that has been fostered from both, my family and from the people in the VHS was really just to listen to people. Regardless of how old I am and the other person that I'm talking to, just soak in everything, and talk to whoever you can and just learn whatever you can. I know a lot of people have a tendency to just jump in and go full noise on everything and go nuts, I think it's really beneficial to just sit back and talk to people, really get an understanding of who it is that you're talking to, what their background is, and take notes of what you're talking about as well. And that way, you really get a good idea of maybe not necessarily the best way to do things, but oftentimes the similarities between different people that you're talking to about a similar topic, you'll find that that's the middle ground to aim for, particularly when it comes to captive husbandry and things like that.


SE: Is that like taking notes on when you're breeding occipitalis and multifasciatia?


JF: I was certainly a lot better at taking notes of what other people had found and not taking notes on what I found.


TE: Wow babe. This will be Josh’s first and last visit.


JF: If it means anything, the person that the occipitalis now live with, was able to breed them this year on the back of asking me some questions about what I did. So surely there's some help there.


SE: 100%.


JF: It just may not have been numerical exacts, but it was close enough.


SE: 100%. What's a common myth about the industry that we're in?


JF: I think, whether my mother will appreciate this or not, she went to the first VHS meeting I went to, which was, the pre expo dinner. It was, Joe Ball and, Doctor Brian Greg Fry.


SE: Yeah.


JF: They were doing a talk that night. And Mom walked in, sat down and we had a lot of fun that night and then went home. And she goes “Gee, you look around and it's a lot of blokes with tattoos, long hair, and beards.” And I went “Yeah, but that's not everyone.” At the time looking around the room, I can see where she got that opinion from. But I think that's something that certainly I've seen in my, time in the reptile scene is that it's shifted a lot. At least down here in Victoria it has. It's so much more family oriented even within the last 6 years. You know, you go to the expo that we have every year and the amount of families that are coming through, and young people and people from different backgrounds that's not just the big burly bloke with tats and a beard. It's really good to see, and I think that's something that is often  misunderstood about the world that we are a part of.


SE: Feeling a little bit targeted now, Josh.


JF: Well, in all fairness, I think I fit that description now too, you know, honestly.


TE: I must say, and no disrespect to any other expo I've attended, but the VHS was the most welcoming for me being a female.


JF: Yeah. Being fortunate enough to talk to a lot of the guys that are involved there. One of the main things that he's always aimed for is making it that family friendly atmosphere and really encouraging that and fostering the next generation. Because in the end of the day, we're in a spot where it's almost coming into a handover period, because as unfortunate as it is, a lot of the people from that initial generation here in Australia are unfortunately passing on. And it's that next generation and the one after it, you need to be promoting to take on the ball because otherwise, it'll just go missing. So yeah. It's certainly one of the really good things about the VHS and the way that the expo is run and the people that are involved, it's always very, very family focused, which is really good to see.


SE: Who do you admire most in your professional circle and, also the private circle? Or it might be the same, or have you got a mentor that you could single out, in both of those fields?


JF: Yeah. It's a very good question. I don't think I can quite put my finger on one or two people. I think it's been one of those things that I always try and as I said before, talk to as many people as I can and oftentimes that's people that have the experience, and things like that. I definitely do look up to so many people, both in the captive world and in the industry. I don't think there's one person that I can attribute it to. There's definitely been a few that have had some pretty significant influences, particularly, an unsung hero of the VHS or at least he might go unsung a lot of the time. Mister Grant, for those that know him will know who I'm talking about. He likes to keep a very low profile until it's auction time, but he has absolutely been someone that has certainly shaped the way that I conduct myself and will definitely every now and then if I say or do something that's maybe not the best idea, he'll certainly let me know about it, which is a good thing because it certainly made me a better person in how I contribute to this hobby, definitely.


TE: What are you looking forward to in the future, Josh?


JF: That's a very, very good question. I think it'll be a pretty significant shift for me in the next couple of years. I am hoping to go into further research to start with once I finish my degree. So I think that will look at doing an Honours year from there and then seeing how I go, whether I look at doing more study from there or go into the workforce. But, one of my long term goals is to work in some of the more remote areas in Australia. Central Australia, the Kimberley, things like that, and the Northern Territory as a whole. So it'll probably involve me picking up what I have now and shifting halfway across the country or leaving it here and hoping that I can foster Mum and Dad into expert power keepers between now and then. We’ll see.


SE: Blotchies aren't gonna go too well in the Northern Territory, mate.


JF: That's it. But I think that'll probably be the big shift, which will certainly uproot a lot of things and a lot of the way that I live now, it will be very different. But, it'll be a very good challenge, and I'm certainly looking forward to it and that time.


TE: You certainly have got lots of good things ahead. You're quite young.


JF: Yeah. I certainly try and one of the things that I took away from the start of the degree was a lot of talk around trying to get to know as many people as you can, whether that be through a few degrees of separation or something along those lines. And I've certainly take tried to take that advice as literally as I can. And, yeah, hopefully, that opens a few doors as time goes on. I'm sure it will.


SE: Network, your bloody ass off, mate. That's what it's all about.


JF: That's it. That's what they all say. And certainly, I'm doing a unit that's about setting you up professionally for going for jobs and things like that. And that's one of the biggest things that they preach is all about - getting to know people and getting yourself out there. I like to think I do a relatively good job of that, and certainly will continue to as time goes on.


SE: So would you say that's one of the biggest challenges in your profession or have you got something else that you think is a larger challenge?


JF: I think I'm pretty lucky in the sense that I have always had enough self-confidence to be able to do that and be able to talk to people, particularly in those settings, like whether it's a conference or a VHS meeting or whatever it may be, or just a cold message like I have done to both of you when I was starting.


TE: Oh, way back in the day?


JF: Wow. Yeah. That's it.


TE: Would that squeaky Josh?


JF: Yeah. That's the one. But, I have noticed in talking to a lot of my friends, this whole idea of imposter syndrome is so big, particularly in, I think, the academic scene, but also just in in general. And it's really a shame because some of the people that I talked to are so incredibly knowledgeable about their area of interest, but they won't go and take that step to talk to that person because they don't feel like they have whether it's a right to, or the knowledge to, or whatever it may be. It's really a shame that that has been something that's evolved throughout time. And I really hope that we as a society continue to go on whatever trajectory we are, that people gain the confidence as much as they can to be able to have those conversations with people and look at it as me talking to or someone talking to someone rather than this person with their big title talking to little Timmy down the road. Because I was lucky enough that at my first VHS meeting, Grant introduced me to Joe Ball, which sent me down a rabbit hole for years of keeping reptiles at home because I was too scared to talk to someone as a 14 year old or 13 year old, whatever it may have been at that point in time. I really hope that that's something that we can sort of foster in people to have that confidence to go, this person over here, yes, they have this title and this prestige or this background, whatever it may be. But in the end of the day, they are still a person and they started somewhere. So I am okay to go and talk to that person and have that conversation. Granted, if they come across like a dick, then by all means, fair enough, feel free to not talk to them, but if I feel like a lot of people have the acceptance of we all start somewhere and yeah, have that conversation.


josh talking at the vhs meeting - cold-blooded contributions podcast episode 3
Josh talking at a VHS meeting.

SE: I think that's something to remember - it doesn't matter, who it is, everyone starts off somewhere. Someone's always new at some point in time. Hal Cogger didn’t wake up overnight and become the expert that he is today. And that's the reality. So feel free to always reach out to people and have those conversations. And, sometimes, it might be a poor time for that person to chat. But at the same time, you know, generally speaking, most people are very receptive to having those conversations at some point in time.


JF: And one thing that I have certainly realized, particularly recently in going to more academic focused conferences and things like that, people love to talk about what they're doing. Absolutely. If you ask them questions about what it is that they are looking at or what they're doing and who they are, they will talk your ear off for 20 minutes, half an hour, with no worries at all, because they're just happy that someone's interested in what it is that they're doing, and that it's having an impact on someone.


SE: I think too, like you were saying before, you're going out with people that have got an interest in botany or an interest in ornithology or mycology or whatever it might be. And you see how excited they get, and it becomes infectious. Like, you sit there, and you can't help but get excited over that that fungi or that plant or that bird or that insect because those people around you are getting excited. And then they see you get so excited over a little skink or something like that as well. And, you know, they can see that too. So it sort of goes both ways in that sense.


JF: Definitely. And I think you tend to learn more and it sinks in more when it's from someone who is that way inclined, but is also at a similar playing field to you like that Central Australia trip. Had I have done that on my own, I would not have given two looks at that plant or, you know, whatever it may be. But, because one of my friends has gone “Look at that. How cool is that?” I now know what that is, and I've taken that in and remember that so that next time I go, if it's with someone else, I can go “Look at that. How cool is that?”


TE: Yep. For sure.


SE: And also too, that can impact on other things. You know you and your colleagues found that Woma in the in the early morning. Were there insects out? Are there particular insects out at that time of the day? Were there plants? Were there flowers blooming at that time of year? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Those sorts of things can actually give you tips that relate back to working with reptiles as well and locating reptiles and amphibians. It's interesting to be able to use the whole environment as opposed to just what we think we know - might be moon phases or temperature or habitat. There are other things out there that that influence animals' behaviours.


JF: Yeah. When I was really starting out, I was fortunate enough with Mum and Dad's support, again to do some different zookeeper for a day type experiences. And a few of them are with someone who I consider to be a good mate of mine, Chris Humphrey. And one of the things that he said to me very early on was “I can tell that you love your reptiles, but just remember there are other things out there, and you do need to have a look at those to really get a full sense of what's going on.” And that certainly stuck with me, and broaden my horizons was one of the other things that he said. Just make sure you're not too in one corner, basically, which is very good advice to someone that was just sort of starting out down a path of looking at wildlife and conservation and things like that.


TE: You've just led me into my next question perfectly. If money and time weren't an issue, where would you go in the world and why?


JF: I think I am not overly adventurous when it comes to the international side of things. There's only a very select few places that really, really interest me, at least at the moment, which is probably Komodo and Papua New Guinea, although only one of those is probably really safe to do. Outside of that, I would go back to Central Australia in a heartbeat. There is just something about that red dirt that gets stuck under your skin, that once you've gone once, you just sort of can't stop going back.


TE: Wow. Oh, that was not what I was expecting. Have you travelled?


JF: I haven't done much when it comes to international. The furthest I've gone was New Zealand for one of my Mum's friend's weddings when I was four. But inside of Australia, I have been fortunate enough to go to, every state and territory aside from, I think, a few of the islands. I've been to Tassie. That's the main one. But, yeah, when I was younger, my uncle was involved with the RAAF. So that meant that they moved around quite a bit, which meant that for the winter break down here, the winter school break, the June/July school holidays, when it's really cold and everybody gets seasonal depression down here in Melbourne because the weather sucks, we would go and fly off to somewhere a lot warmer, which for quite a while was, Darwin, and then it was Perth for a bit, and now it's, Brisbane. So that sort of leads into doing quite a bit of travel when I was much younger, which some of my earliest memories are from those Darwin trips of chasing some sort of a monitor lizard around a tree, at the front of our accommodation, and then seeing a dingo raid a bin, and stuff like that, which incredibly niche memories for a 4 year old, but they've certainly stuck with me. And, one of the earliest animal photos that we have with me involved, is me holding a  Northern Blue Tongue at Crocosaurus Cove, which at the time would have been curated by Gavin Bedford.

A young Josh Fastuca with a blue tongue lizard at Crocasaurus Cove, episode 3 of Cold-blooded Contributions podcast
A young Josh with a new friend.

Seeing that collection, and that photo of me sitting there with blue tongue in hand and a coastal taipan in the tank behind me. You could always tell that that was the way that it was gonna go at some point. It was just how long it was gonna take which was the question mark.


TE: Awesome


SE: Where do you go for inspiration? What's your happy place?


JF: That's a very, very good question. I think it's really anywhere that's in the field, anywhere that I can sort of disconnect from the people world and just experience the nature world. I always get such a buzz, when I sort of come home from any sort of a trip, whether it's going down to the Great Ocean Road with a couple of mates and not really looking for animals, but just having fun, or it's going and doing a week of field research in Mount Kosciuszko and taking an ungodly amount of time to get home, because that is a long drive. Whatever it is, it's those natural places and natural spaces. That where I get a chance to do a lot of my thinking, and definitely gives me a rejuvenated sense when I come back home and I’m able to sort of spring off that. And if there's work that I need to do, whether it's Uni stuff like assessments and things like that or just day to day life. It gives you a completely different feeling and a bit more excitement about what you're doing because you've had that reset time.


SE: Do you like doing that by yourself or you do you like doing that with mates? What's your preference?


JF: I've done a bit of both. I think it's generally more fun when you've got people around to share it with, but I have no issues with going and doing things on my own as well. Do a bit of both, I think. I don't have the best track record of going camping on my own.


SE: Definitely sounds like there's a story or two in that.


JF: So, I got my red P plates, which for international people is the start of me being able to drive on my own. I was 18 at the time, and I had a free weekend. So I went “Alright. Where am I gonna go for my first weekend away without Mum and Dad or anything like that? Let me pick a spot in the middle of nowhere.” The closest town was half an hour away. It was a 3-hour drive to get out there. What could possibly go wrong? I got out there, no dramas, or actually no, that's a lie. On the way in, I decided to get up stupidly early. I think it was, like, 4 or 5 o'clock because I wanted to get there before the sunrise. Again, I don't know why 18 year old me decided that was a good idea. But anyway, so I've got in the car and headed off. Driving, out past Bendigo, which for Victorians, you'll know where that is. It's sort of a regional hub, I suppose, but the outskirts are still pretty rural. And it's probably on 5:30am, 6 o'clock at this point and it's still pitch black. And driving along and I've gone “Oh, gee, that's a big shape in the middle of the road”. I wonder if I'm seeing things. Got a little bit closer went, “Oh, that looks fluffy.” Got a little bit closer went “Oh, that's a sheep. Uh-oh.” Swerved across the other side of the road. Luckily, there was no other cars coming, and then swerved back and went “Okay. This is a really bad start, but I think I'm okay, so I'm gonna keep going for now.” So I kept going. I got there in one piece, and had the day out there, no dramas. Got to night-time, I'll go for a walk, see if I can find anything. I had been out there a couple of times previously, so I knew roughly where I was going.


SE: Whereabouts are you now? You're at West Bendigo? Whipstick or something like that, are you?


JF: Up towards Terrick Terrick. So Yep. Going further north, sort of up towards the Murray ish. Yep. So I was sitting there going “I think I know where I am. I've done this a few times. I should be right.” I hadn't done it alone before, which was probably a detriment to myself in that sense. So I started my walk and plodded along, and during the walk, I'd startled a fox that was relatively close by. And I went, “Oh, okay. That's something that I've not had to deal with before. That was a little bit of a freaky interaction.” And it ran off, no worries, and I thought I was fine. And then I sort of went “Okay, I've been walking around for a while. It's a bit cold. Nothing's coming out. I might as well go and get ready for bed.” So I've gone to start walking back down, the hill and every time I've turned around there's been the 2 beady eyes of the fox looking back at me.


fox against black back ground, episode 3 of Cold-blooded contributions podcast with Josh Fastuca
Sorry Josh, I couldn't resist adding this!

And 18 year old me should have known better that a fox isn't gonna do anything because they're not big enough to really cause me too much grief. But being alone and being my first trip out, that psyched me out a lot, and sort of started getting me stressing. And the place that I was at has these big boulders that you've gotta sort of figure out your way around to get down off the hill to get back to the car. And I kept taking the wrong turn each time that led to a drop off. So I started to get a little bit stressed. I eventually made it back to the car and went “Okay, let's try and get some sleep.” And I just couldn't. I was not comfortable at all. So what's the time now? It was probably only 8 or 9 o'clock. I've gone “Oh, if I drive home now, I'll make it home just before Mum and Dad go to bed, so then they won't have to worry. That's probably a good idea.” So I started to drive home. And I got a call about an hour later from Mum going “How's it going, have you set up for the night?” And I thought if I say that I'm on my way home, she's just gonna worry and probably tell me to pull over somewhere and they will come and pick me up, because that’s the kind of parents they are – if they are worried about me, they will just come and get me. So I went “Yeah. I've just set up the swag. We're all good. I'll talk to you in the morning” And then just kept driving home. I got home and, our front door only locks from the inside. So I went to open the door and went, “Oh, they've locked me out. This is a bad start.” So I called Mum.


SE: That's what you get for lying to your Mom!


JF: That's it. Yeah. I called my Mum and said “Hey, do you wanna just grab the door for me?” She goes what are you doing home? I went “Do I have a story to tell you!” So long story short, I’m an 18 year old man that got scared by a fox, which was enough for me to decide to go home. One of my mates still has not let me live that down, and his father will bring that up every time I see him.


SE: Your buggared now mate…. Next time I see you….


JF: Well, that's it. Now there'll be a whole lot more people that'll probably give me shit for that forever in a day now.


SE: It would be a crime if I didn’t mate!


TE: I don't wanna tell you this, Josh, but we were out one night, and I saw a fox cub in the middle of the road. And I'm like “Oh my god. How gorgeous is this?” Picked it up in one foul swoop. And Scott's like “What the fuck are you doing? Put that down.” And because he got so angry, I was like “No. You're not my mother.” It's the biggest row we'd ever had at that point.


JF: Luckily, I now know better, but me then certainly didn't.


TE: If it makes you feel any better if there are roaches, I would have done the same thing.


JF: Well, we've all got our things that we, aren't particularly fond of as they say.


TE: Yep.


TE: Are there any exciting projects you're currently working on Josh, or you would like to work on in the very near future?


JF: Oh, yeah. That's a that's a very good question. I'll break it down into the three groups. As far as home is concerned, I have got a few tanks that I need to build. I want to try something and I haven't quite worked out how I wanna try it with this this Woma Python tank that I'm gonna build. I say I, it'll inevitably Dane helps me build it because I have no handyman skills. I just hold things together and say, yep, that looks good, and he does the rest. But I wanna try and plan out some sort of a system that encourages that borrowing behavior that they're so well known for and that people have been putting up videos of, over the last couple of years of their Womas digging out burrows and things like that. I'm very much in the early stages of trying to wrap my head around how I want to do that, but that's something that I'm looking forward to as far as the home side of things goes. As far as work is concerned, there's a few things on the go at the moment that might see the collection shift a little bit in a good way to have a few more animals, and a few different ones to give the kids an opportunity to engage with some different species. So hopefully, that all pans out. That'll be really good to see. And then I think from a professional standpoint, certainly, the big one is hopefully looking at doing Honors next year and the stressful 12 months that will ensue as a result of that. But it'll be a great experience to do. I certainly hope so at least.


SE: Have you got an idea of what you wanna do in in an honours project?


JF: Yeah. I think the main one is looking at the predator proof fences, which is something that's very widely used in Australia, or at least it's becoming more widely used in Australia, because we have a really bad track record with feral species and extinction for those international that may not be as aware of what happens down here.


SE: Looking at efficacy of the fences or something else?


JF: The idea would be looking at how reptiles which are usually not a target species how the fences maybe affect the way that they interact with, or cross borders and things along those lines because the fences would certainly be a deterrent for some species. One of the coolest videos that I've seen was from someone who was interning at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy at their property in Newhaven, which is in Central Australia. And it was a video of a relatively large Perentie basically patrolling the fence. And what I would assume, again, this is just my assumption that animal would be basically picking off anything that's gotten stuck. And I think it'd be very interesting to see here how that plays a role, whether it's the fences as a as an obstruction or, fences as a result of changing the species composition on either side, because with the fences often comes predator proof areas, so no cats and foxes. Well, I should say no invasive predators because there's still other things. Sometimes even they are rabbit free, which is another thing that has certainly had a big impact across Australia as well. So I feel like those sort of different conditions could produce quite a telling story about how reptiles are impacted by those fenced reserves and whether that's something that we need to look at going forward, potentially as well.


TE: I'd like to ask you what was your defining moment when you decided to give the portion of your reptile sales and whatnot to conservation? What was what was the species? What was the train of thought behind it?


JF:  I think it was a sort of a combination of things. I have always been told and seen how people support things like the VHS. So for context to people that haven't been to a meeting before, we do an auction most meetings and a raffle, and you buy raffle tickets and things like that. It's usually a tank or something along those lines. And something that has become a reoccurring theme throughout most meetings is that if it's someone with a substantial collection or something along those lines that wins the raffle prize, any kids that are in the audience at the time are usually the ones that end up with the tank, whether they're related to the person or know the person or not. It's usually how it goes, which is just great to see, which sounds very unrelated, but it goes full circle. So I always saw that generosity in that context, which is why I'm a massive supporter of the VHS as well. But there was, I think it actually might have been an MPR episode, at one point that was talking about how we as keepers can contribute to conservation more than just the face value of the argument that everybody makes that we're keeping things at home and breeding them, and that's us doing our part, which it's all well and good to make that point, but it's not really doing anything long term or lasting. Like, it is but it isn't. It's controversial.


SE: It aids in communication and normalizing reptiles in the wider community. So there's certainly a benefit in that sense.


JF: That's it.


TE: But I get where Josh is coming from too, though.


SE: Oh, 100%. It's not necessarily a direct contribution to conservation.


JF: I think that the big argument that people tend to make, particularly those that breed animals at home, is the whole preservation side of things, which I see where you're coming from, but that'll only get you so far. So, yeah, I sort of saw that and I think it was also might have been, the reptiles and research. It's one of the UK guys potentially that also had a few different talks around that side of things. And I sort of sat there and thought “Okay. What can I do? What can I think up?” And the species that is my number one is Murray Darling carpet pythons, for those that haven't worked that out yet. And during the thought process, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy put up a photo of, Murray Darling carpet python that was featured inside the fenced reserve at Yookamurra, which is in South Australia. And I went “Bingo. That's the idea." These guys do some incredible work across the country, with conservation of native species. Particularly, a lot of it is to do with the fence side of things, but also just management on a whole. That was the starting point. And then, as part of the Central Australia trip that I keep referring to, we were able to visit the Newhaven property, which is a 250,000 hectare plot of land in the middle of nowhere, basically, bordering the Tanami Desert in Central Northern Territory. And it is just such a vast landmass, and they've got a big fenced area and all that sort of thing. And as part of that, the time that we spent out there, we got to go along with the ecology team and do some surveying of some of the species that were inside the fences and we got to go inside the fence.

And just seeing effectively what Central Australia was meant to be before, it was more than likely permanently changed to what it is now. That was the real penny drop moment. I went “O.kay, these guys are doing work that I want to support. I am going to use x amount of what I do from reptiles to contribute to that.” And that's how I can make my contribution to conservation more than just the preservation and the communication elements, sort of giving it that next step, I suppose.


TE: I personally think it's admirable. I'm really proud of you and how far you've come from when I first met you.


JF: Thank you. I appreciate that.


SE: It's all big love in, isn’t it?


TE: Isn't it?


SE: I suppose the other reason why you like the AWC properties is they exclude foxes. So it gives you a safe place to go herping when you get older.


JF: That's it. Absolutely.


TE: Wow. You just got scrubbed off Josh's Christmas card list. I’ll tell you some stories off air, Josh.


SE: What's your top 3 favourite books, books that are nonfiction books I suppose?


JF: I suppose it's probably down to the three main references that I will go through. Being known as one of the reptile people courtesy of me not being overly quiet at Uni means that I tend to get a lot of messages from people saying “Do you know what this is? Can you ID this?”  So I tend to have 3 main sort of references that I go back to on a regular. And if people particularly in Victoria don't have these books and work in the field, I think you need to do yourself a service and get at least these three. So you've got the Reptiles of Victoria, which is basically the bible. There's a few things that have changed taxonomically, but for the most part, it's pretty accurate and gives you a good overview of what you might be looking at. And then you of course, you've got the 2 big ones, the Cogger and then the what is it? Swan and


SE: Wilson and Swan.


JF: That's the one. Wilson and Swan. Those ones you probably don't wanna put in a backpack or necessarily in your car, but their certainly ones that you go back to once you get home from a trip and go “Oh, what was that little brown skink again?” And then you flick through and go “Oh, that looks about right” and then you sort of, you know, go through the descriptions and see if they line up. Those three are certainly the main ones.


The Reptiles of Victoria is a great one for anyone who does, whether it's bush crew work or things like that where you're in the field all the time. It fits into a backpack for the most part. It might get a little bit beaten up, but that's kind of the point of a little field guide like that. But, yeah, that that one in particular, if people don't have it, definitely do track it down because it is, a wealth of knowledge and a great resource to have on hand.


TE: Definitely. It's a very good book.


JF: And of course, I might just add to that quickly. I cannot forget, there's more than a few books that that the two lovely people that are interviewing me have put out, that people should get their hands on as well.


TE: Cheque’s in the mail, Josh.


JF: I have bought more than a few of them for friends' birthdays and things like that to go “Here. This is your intro to snakes. There you go. This is your starting point. I will talk to you in 6 months time once you've properly read it and understood it all, and then we will go from there.”


SE: Yeah. Look. I mean, the new snake book we're working on at the moment is gonna be much better for the field. That's for sure. But the whole idea is that those books are an introduction, I suppose, for the most part. It's, both Coventry and Robertson and, Wilson and Swan are great books for the field, and Hal's book's a great book for the desk, I think, is the best way to describe it.

 TE: And it makes the damn good weapon.


SE: Oh, yeah. Yeah. For sure. I'm lucky enough to have a copy of the keys, which makes things a lot easier to track around with you.


JF: Yeah. I can't imagine someone putting that whole book in a backpack and still managing to go herping properly. That'd be a fair effort, I reckon.


TE: I don't know. When someone didn't drink water and ended up in a hospital, his adoring wife put it in a backpack, got lost at the hospital, and had to climb up a 101 steps and then take it back home because he didn't want it stolen. So it does go in a backpack. It's just a hell workout.


JF: You can't make things too easy though, can you?


TE: No. Definitely not. Josh actually said to me weeks ago when I hit him up to interview him, that no topic is off limits. And I've been racking my brain, but because of the age difference, like, I'm old enough to be his mother, I can't think of what to ask him that won’t come out as inappropriate.


SE: There's a whole lot of inappropriate shit I could be asking.


TE: That's what I mean. So where do you see yourself professionally in the next 5 to 10 years, Josh?


JF: I hope that by that time, the Honours project has happened, and I'm working somewhere that's probably not Victoria by that time.


TE: Definitely want that Oenpelli don't you?


JF: Well, yeah. That you know, it's a few different, arguments involved there. I think being able to go herping for a few other things will be pretty good too. But, yeah, that's certainly one of the ideas. The other one will be going fully into the research side of things, which, will come one way or the other. That's probably the main thing and hopefully working in somewhere that's quite out there but also actively involved in conservation of our native wildlife because we all know it needs all the help it can get, and I hope to be able to contribute in some way, shape, or form to that going forward.


SE: Have you ever experienced or witnessed misogyny in the hobby? And, not necessarily just the hobby, but it also at university as well. And what do you think, in your opinion, could be used to help stamp out that sort of behaviour?


JF: It's certainly a very good question. I think for me, for the most part, I've had some very good influences, which has meant that, that side of things has not been something that I've been overly privy to. Also, in all reality, being a man myself, I probably don't see it as much as I should, in some way shape or form or don't take notice of it as much as I probably should. But I certainly get the feeling that as time goes on, it'll be something that becomes less and less of a problem, whether it's a, dare I say, a generational thing or just a society thing. Certainly, I hope that as time goes on, that will be a problem that is stamped out.

As far as the ways and means of doing that, I think it's one of those things that can be quite difficult. It probably does lend itself to having difficult conversations with people, if and when something like that does occur. But I think if you can have those conversations when the situation arises, then that's only making a good step forward or perhaps it's deciding that that person is maybe someone that you don't wanna talk to very much.


SE: I think it's as we spoke about earlier, how you're starting to see a shift in what a so called typical reptile keeper looks like these days, where it's not the bearded tattooed old fellow. It really can be anyone, and, assuming that the people's interests are x or y, based on their appearance is really something of the past, and hopefully, that's where it remains.


JF: Yeah. Absolutely. And I think, certainly from what I have seen, it's not about who the person is that you're talking to. It's more what you're talking about that's what matters. I think, at the end of the day, regardless of who it is that you're talking to, as long as, what it is that you're talking about is the interest that we're all here for. And at the end of the day, we're all talking about reptiles because that's what we're keen on, then by all means, go for it.


TE: And if anyone can hear the heavy breathing, that's Brun, not me. What's the one takeaway that you would like the audience to get from this episode, Josh?


JF: I think for anyone who is just sort of coming into this crazy world that we're a part of, the reptile world that it is, I hope that one of two things is taken away from it. And I suppose this resonates for anyone really, but particularly people that are coming into it. Talk to and listen to whoever you can, whoever, whenever, all of that. Send that message even if it's out of the blue. It might take a couple days to get a response from someone, but it's worth doing. Go and talk to that person that you've seen across the room if you really wanna know what they're doing or what they've got at home or whatever it may be, have that conversation. As much as you can, have the confidence in yourself to be able to have conversation because as I said before, we are all people despite, whether we've authored 20 different papers or whether you've kept 1 lizard at home or seen a skink out on your morning walk. Everyone was at one point at the same level. And in the end of the day, we are all people and, yeah, have those conversations. That's probably the number one. And, I think what was it? Where was I going with number two? Uh-oh.


TE: Welcome to my world.


JF: Oh, jeez. It's completely gone.


SE: That's alright. We can go with the second part of not everyone's afraid of foxes.


TE: WOW. Tell Josh your real Bali experience, babe.


JF: I think that's the most important one. I would say as a caveat to that as well, particularly the people of my age bracket, talk to those that you might think are the older group, that you might think, this might be a very poor assumption, but some people might assume that they are from a bygone era. But you can learn so much from those people, things that'll completely surprise you and reshape the way that you think. Give them the time of day to talk to you about their experience and you will just learn so much from it and gain so much from it. I was fortunate enough to start a project that I have been very slack on recently, which has involved talking to a lot of people from those generations and the people that have the experience, like yourselves as well.


TE: Wow. You just called us old.


JF: That was not my intention. But talking to the people that have walked the walk, if you will, you just learn so much, and it gives you such a good foundation to sort of bounce from and to take what you know already plus what other people have experienced and learn from both their mistakes but also their positives and really gain what you can from that.


SE: I think at the same time, it's exciting being one of the older people, its weird saying this, but being one of the older people looking back, seeing young people like yourself out there and some of the others that are just keen to get out there and add back to the hobby at such a young age is really good to see. So keep up the great work and, hopefully, we don't completely lose you to academia and that you you're still, willing to clean out poo out of out of, lizard cages and stuff like that and still be part of that part of the hobby as well.


JF: That's it. I'ts certainly a whole other topic in itself trying to balance all those worlds, but it's certainly one that I, hopefully, will intend on continuing to balance between, the conservation world, the academic world, and the keeping world. They often butt heads a lot of the time, particularly in Australia. But, yeah, hopefully, I'm one of those lucky people that's able to bridge the gaps in some way, shape, or form across those platforms.


SE: Is there anything that we haven't covered that you'd like to say before we start to close out?


JF: No. I think you've done a pretty good job. There's nothing really that that comes to mind. I would say if anybody has any questions about what I do and what I have done, feel free to send me a message. I try my best to get back to you as soon as I can. I am one of those young people that does have their phone by their side all the time, and I'm probably using it a bit more than I should. So I will see the message and get back to you as soon as I can.


SE: So is that the best way to find you? On social media or email, home telephone, carrier pigeon?  How can how can our listeners find you if they wanna have that chat?


JF: Certainly, social media is the best way to do it. If you just search up Josh's Aussie Reptiles, there's a few different platforms that name comes up on and it's all me. So either way, I will see it at some point in time. If you can manage to find a carrier pigeon, that would be a great story to tell. So feel free to give that a whirl, I won't complain. But, yeah, definitely social media is the best way to do it.

TE: Thanks for listening to the Cold-blooded Contributions podcast. A massive thank you to our guest, Josh Fastuca. We really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us, especially as it took so long because Scott's computer wouldn't work. We will be releasing our podcasts monthly, so make sure you hit the subscribe button, and don't forget to check out all the other podcasts in the Morelia Python Radio Network. www.moreliapythonradio.net is where you can find us. Give the Cold-Blooded Contributions Podcast a like on Facebook so you don't miss any updates, giveaways, or guest announcements. The links discussed in today's podcast will be in the show notes and also on the Facebook page. And always remember to trust your creativity. It's intelligence having fun.




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