Animal magic down on the Funky Farm by Kate Sears

When Chris Symons told Mornington Peninsula Magazine that he has “normal animals too”, we couldn’t help but be intrigued.

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The Funky Farm on the Mornington Peninsula is home to animals from Australia and exotic overseas locations. There’s Crikey the crocodile, Bob the blue-tongue lizard and Hamish the Highland cow, as well as dingoes, pythons, squirrel gliders, a macaw and so much more. You might say this is not your average farm at all.

With more than 4ha filled with funky animals, the family members are busy bees. Chris unluckily gets the not-so-glorious jobs of enclosure maintenance and cleaning up the “presents” the animals leave behind. His wife, Sam, fills the roles of animal trainer and feeder. And yes, feeding time at the Funky Farm is hectic, with nocturnal animals to cater for too. Completing the team is daughter Ziva, who joins in on the fun as the star of the adorable yet informative videos on their Facebook page.

“It wouldn’t be a farm without dogs,” says Ziva.  “We’ve got three dogs here - we’ve got Bronco, Sasha and Bullseye. Sasha sleeps in my room every night. Dad says she has to sleep in my room until I’m 20. Isn’t that crazy?”

Chris and his family have worked very hard to create their zoo.  “I’m working towards opening the zoo to the public in 2018; however, it’s not an easy task. My goal is to open it up for special needs children and adults as I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that animal therapy can have on them. It will be wheelchair friendly and we can provide a laminated booklet when they arrive filled with tools to communicate and tasks to complete. We’d hope to offer tasks around the farm for special needs adults to gain specific skills that they can take with them for a future job.”

You might be surprised to know that this isn’t Chris’s sole focus. At 34, he’s been a jockey for 18 years and has ridden more than 1000 winners in Australia and the US. Yet the farm is his absolute passion, and it will be his retirement plan despite that milestone being far from close.  “I’d like to continue to ride for a long time yet.”

Chris told us he hopes to get a big cat next, like a cheetah – and we can’t wait to watch him trying to catch it!  To meet their extensive collection of animals before the Funky Farm’s public opening, like them on Facebook and get a snapshot of their zoo life at @thefunkyfarm.