An “absolutely magical” series of photos has captured a unique and “truly awesome” friendship between two of Australia’s most iconic animals.
The mates — a three-metre coastal carpet python and an adult lace monitor, otherwise known as a tree goanna — first met last year on Saskia Kouwenberg’s verandah just outside of Nimbin, in northern NSW.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” she told Yahoo News Australia. “It was an absolutely amazing thing to see them lying together on the verandah. They hung out for about two weeks together and even slept very close to each other.”
Although the python, named Kuia — Māori for wise female elder — has been visiting her home every winter for the past four years, the goanna is a more recent arrival. The lace monitor was “very injured” when he first wandered up to her home two years ago, Saskia said, with two gaping wounds where his thumbs had been ripped off by suspected chicken wire.
“It was terrible. For about six months he could hardly walk,” she said, noting his nickname The One Who Walks Slowly. WIRES helped Saskia tend to the goanna and after a while she was able to get close enough to spray disinfect on his wounds, ultimately saving his life.
Reptile friends reunited
This year, Saskia wasn’t surprised to see the python rock up for her annual visit, but she was disappointed when she saw Kuia slither back into the forest on August 15 without getting to see her sharp-clawed friend.
“I thought 'oh what a pity'…and he showed up only three days later and I thought 'oh they have missed each other this year',” she told Yahoo. However, just a couple days later she was “overjoyed” when she saw “they were hanging out together”.
She took a couple of photos of the mates basking in the sun, just centimetres away from each other. This year they only spent one day together before parting, but their peaceful coexistence was on full display.
“It was really funny, the goanna got very restless and he wanted to get off the ledge and had to pass the python but he couldn’t,” the Netherlands native who moved to Australia several years ago said. It was clear the goanna didn’t want to hurt the python by stepping over it with its “very sharp claws” and he hissed at it until the python slowly wriggled out of his path.
Chances of eating each other 'are slim'
It appears the friends have just emerged from brumation — their dormant period during which they don’t eat for months — and “have found the perfect sunning spot” to warm up before going off to hunt, Operations Manager at the Australian Reptile Park, Billy Collett, told Yahoo.
“A coastal carpet python and adult lace monitor basking side-by-side is not something we see all the time,” Billy added. “In saying that, over the years I have seen a few similar situations with snakes and lizards.
“I’ve seen two diamond pythons on the same roof as a lace monitor…and red bellies and long-neck turtles. I think people would be surprised at how often this would actually happen in the wild.”
Their chances of the pair eating each other are slim given their size, he said. “That’s a decent sized snake for the lace monitor to have a crack at.”
Social media in awe of 'amazing' friendship
“In awe" of her visitors, Saskia posted her photos of the pair in a handful of Facebook groups and immediately attracted a large response.
“This is so beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing,” one person said. “It’s so cool to see them hang out like this,” another commented. “Nature truly is amazing, what a great sight,” a third added.
Others said the friendship had “blown their mind”. “What crops do you have growing? This odd couple are way too chilled around each other,” someone else said, poking fun at Nimbin’s well-known cannabis culture.
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