A&K Experts: 10 Minutes with Craig Webb of Raptor Refuge

Supported by Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy, Tasmania’s Raptor Refuge does extraordinary work in rehabilitating majestic raptors, their conservation efforts facilitating valuable change and drawing in visitors from all corners of the world.
November 2020

Supported by Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy, Tasmania’s Raptor Refuge does extraordinary work in rehabilitating majestic raptors, their conservation efforts facilitating valuable change and drawing in visitors from all corners of the world. The passionate architect behind this project, conservationist and veterinary nurse Craig Webb, took some time to chat to us about the valuable work they do, what’s next, and what guests can expect on a visit. 

Tell us, what’s the origin story of Raptor Refuge?

The Raptor Refuge came about as a result of many years of animal conservation work and wildlife encounters. My time as a veterinary nurse in Western Australia, at an incredible outback clinic, was pivotal. I learnt so much caring for everything from domestic pets to kangaroos, cattle and so on. After a few years I came back to Tasmania, gained my certification and started caring for native animals mostly. But as threats from power lines, farming, habitat loss and wind farms increased, more and more injured birds of prey were being brought to us which necessitated different care requirements. So, I started constructing aviaries. When our first wedge-tailed eagle came in, I built a significant aviary for this magnificent bird, and I quickly became known as ‘the raptor bloke’. Raptors, including eagles, goshawks and falcons, quickly became our specialty and, as we added more infrastructure, the Raptor Refuge was born.

What inspired your valuable work?

Developing a deep love for these magnificent wild birds, I was keenly aware that help was needed and after I began championing the cause, I realised that I was starting to be heard and the issue was gaining traction. Because of my passion, I knew I could help these animals and get others to help too in supporting our conservation and rehabilitation efforts. I spent years learning everything I could about caring for these birds (and I’m still learning) and I’m constantly inspired by the support of our partners and visitors. It reinforces that what we do makes a significant difference to these beautiful birds.

What are some challenges that the Refuge faces?

In the early days, resources and funds were scarce. I was funnelling my own money into purchasing machinery and tools that were needed to build aviaries. But with a knack for getting things done and a degree of persistence, I was able to use my growing network to source the materials I needed as I needed them. It’s been almost 20 years and the refuge continues to grow from strength to strength.

What is A&K’s connection to the Raptor Refuge?

A&K was introduced to the refuge by Tourism Tasmania and recognising the important work we’re doing nominated it for support by their philanthropic arm, Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy. An agreement was entered into which delivers financial support to the refuge as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes visiting opportunities for guests travelling with A&K to Tasmania. I know the team at A&K were very impressed by what they saw at the refuge, the beautifully landscaped grounds, the impressive aviaries and our passionate team of conservationists. It was a perfect fit for a company that supports communities and conservation in the places they travel to.

What are the highlights of visiting the centre on an A&K Journey?

There are many highlights, from seeing the majestic birds up close, to touring the refuge and seeing the day-to-day inner workings. Of course, A&K guests enjoy a few extra special experiences but I can’t share too much, it’s important to preserve some mystery. Tours are led by me, and guests get an in-depth understanding of our work here and how it impacts these spectacular birds of prey. Every day is different, we might showcase eagle test flights, watch the birds being fed, or look on as  injured birds are cared for. For a lot of people, just being here in the tranquil bush setting is a highlight. It allows visitors to pause, take a breath, and admire the majesty of these incredible birds. At the end of the day it’s a haven for these birds to rest, recuperate and get flight-ready, the natural beauty is just a bonus.

Can you share your favourite experience in your role?

I have so many, but one that stayed with me was when a farmer called us with a wedge tailed eagle trapped in the nets covering their apple orchard. Kangaroos in the orchard had attracted the eagle and it became trapped in the netting. I was able to catch it quite easily and simply launched it into the air. The bird was perfectly healthy. It flew off with incredible power, and about 100 metres from the farm, I saw its mate fly out of a nearby tree to join it, and they flew away together. That’s an image I’ll remember for a long time. I’ve also had many great experiences presenting to groups, releasing eagles from the top of Mount Wellington, I could go on. Now that we’ve grown, seeing the delight and sometimes tears (of joy) on visitors’ faces is heartening. People leave with a humbling respect for these birds, really feeling touched by their experience and that’s something I’m proud of. Knowing that the work that we do, including our Raptor hotline, is helping to save these animals, getting runs on the board in terms of conservation and highlighting this important issue, I’m proud of how that has evolved.

What impact do guests and visitors have on the refuge?

You can tell people are passionate and open to learning from the moment they walk in. The support from visitors and the way they talk about the refuge after their guided visits inspires me to be even more vocal about all the work that needs to be done. To be able to share everything we do with visitors is inspiring in a big way.

Is there something interesting about the Raptor Refuge that you would like to share with travellers?

It’s all interesting, but every day we have a visit by three wild wedgies. It’s a highlight that blows visitors away. I built two 28-metre-high perches with astro turf covers knowing that the wedge-tails would stand on them. Each day these birds land here, and have been for 20 years. It’s a territory thing. We don’t lure them with food, but they come in to show their dominance over the other birds, doing displays and flights over the aviary, it’s fascinating to watch.

What projects are on the horizon for the Refuge?

I’ve always got projects on the go; my wishes, dreams and goals are immense. I’m aiming high, like an eagle - from aviaries to cold stores and elliptical flight tunnels, the list is endless. The more support we get, the more resources we will be able to secure in the hope of bringing these projects to fruition.

What can people do to help?

Follow us on social media, become a member on or website, or purchase our yearly calendar. Visiting the refuge as an A&K guest is another avenue of support. And then it’s a question of simply spreading the word. I’m confident we’re in a place to do more, achieve more and help more, and gain more support to combat the threats faced by these magnificent birds. I’ve been working passionately for 20 years, and with the help of our engaged supporters, plan to continue for much longer.