(NEW YORK) — Charlie Parker is being billed as Australia’s youngest wildlife ranger.
The 3-year-old boy is fearless, and he loves reptiles. His best friend is Pablo, a boa constrictor that measures 8 feet in length.
Photos of Parker playing in the water with an alligator named Gump have people buzzing about the boy. But wildlife is the family business, and Parker’s father, who runs Ballarat Wildlife Park in Victoria, Australia, says his son’s love of animals must be genetic.
But is Parker too young for this kind of contact with dangerous animals?
Animal expert Jack Hanna told ABC’s Good Morning America that proper supervision of wild animals is critical. Without that, people are placed in jeopardy.
“Children and wild animals are not a good mix,” Hanna added. “You can train a wild animal but you can never tame a wild animal.”
It’s not the first time that young children have gotten close to dangerous creatures.
People were shocked last year to see video of an 18-month-old girl playing with a 300-pound gorilla. The video had been shot 22 years earlier, and the girl’s father, gorilla conservationist Damian Aspinall, reportedly had kept it hidden until then because he feared backlash.
Aspinall said he released the video in order to bring awareness to endangered gorillas and to show their gentle nature.
In the video, Tansy, his daughter, has a smile on her face as she pets, plays with and is carried around by the gorilla.
The late Steve Irwin, who gained fame as the star of The Crocodile Hunter wildlife TV series, also drew heavy public criticism for holding his young son too close to a 12-foot crocodile.
Irwin’s daughter, Bindi, has followed in her father’s footsteps. Now a 14-year-old actress, Bindi previously hosted her own televised nature series.
Irwin was killed by a stingray in a freak attack in Sept. 4, 2006.
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