It’s impossible to talk to the animals - but if anyone comes close, it’s animal behaviour expert Jade Fountain.
Jade, 28, graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Zoology in 2011.
From hand-rearing cheetah cubs in South Africa, to working in an endangered species conservation program training marine mammals in Queensland Australia, to helping private clients understand their pets better, Jade’s career is every animal-lover’s dream.
Earlier this year she went to Montana and filmed a movie with numerous dogs.
“I was contacted by a colleague in the States to work on a film set as a studio trainer. It was an exciting and wonderful experience."
Jade loved her time at uni and did exceptionally well - especially considering she never intended to go in the first place.
“I left year 12 and went off to TAFE for several years and worked full-time in the zoo and dog training industry, and got a lot of experience.
I saw the value from people around me who had done degrees and had that extra critical thinking and learning, and that really appealed to me.
I always knew since I was six that I’d work with animals, but funnily enough I always said 'I’m not going to university, I don’t need to do that.' That’s something I laugh at now.
“I was working at the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program for the whole time I was at uni. I was really lucky that it complemented all the Zoology study that I was doing.
When I was originally looking for universities, I remember UTAS stood out because you could really choose your path of learning and tailor it to how you wanted your degree to look. That was one of the biggest drawcards.
"I didn't study science at high school. I always did drama, but when I launched into a science degree, I loved every minute of it."
After graduation Jade interned with a well-known dog trainer in Washington, before completing training at the Karen Pryor Academy.
“I also went to South Africa and worked in wildlife rehabilitation, hand-raising cheetah cubs and working with orphaned rhinos. I saw a lot of really confrontational situations first-hand, like poaching, habitat destruction, and wildlife being poisoned. It was heartbreaking to see.
“It’s also incredibly grounding in that you understand why it is so critical to save these animals, by trying to protect their habitat and trying to breed critical populations.
“It was definitely daunting going to South Africa by myself for so many months, but I’m always up for adventure.”
She has also worked as a marine mammal trainer, held a managerial position in the RSPCA, and trained assistance dogs. All the while she was running her own business, Animal Behaviour Matters, consulting with private pet owners and wildlife parks on behavioural welfare and training.
My biggest passions are both conservation and behaviour welfare. They’re my two biggest goals in life. Improving the behaviour welfare for any animal.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m working with a dog in a shelter, a cheetah in a zoo, or a wallaby in a conservation program, any type of environment where we work with animals, we need to look at how we best facilitate the environment for that individual."
As part of her degree, Jade travelled to the University of Texas on exchange.
"The exchange I did to the US was one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m so glad UTAS offered it. It opened up so many doors for me. The networking became invaluable.
“I spend a lot of time in the US, I go over at least twice a year, every year. My colleagues there are some of the best animal trainers in the industry and they’re now both friends and mentors," she said.
"As a result of that door opening at UTAS, it changed my entire world. If I hadn’t gone to Uni, I wouldn’t have had any of those experiences."