A quintessentially Australian photo which could only have come from WA’s Kimberley has gone viral, as social media across the world marvelled at a python playing pick-up to a bunch of amorous cane toads.
Helicopter pilot Paul Mock took the photo of the olive python — named Monty, of course — carrying a contingent of cane toads on its back in the wake of an inundation of 68mm rain at his Kununurra property on Monday.
Mr Mock doesn’t have social media but decided to send the picture on to his brother Andrew, who quickly uploaded it to Twitter where it caused a storm.
Speaking to Jane Marwick for 6PR Radio’s Morningsprogram, Mr Mock said he had gone to check the water levels in his dam when he spotted the swarm of cane toads brought out by the heavy rains.
“Because of the heavy rain I was worried about the water levels in my dam and went out to lower the spillway to release the pressure and noticed all the cane toads had been flushed out of their hidey-holes around the edge of the lake, and then nearly stepped on the snake as it was crawling along with the cane toads on its back,” he said.
Olive pythons can dine on a whole host of wildlife — Mr Mock said he had even seen one swallow a wallaby, which was still wriggling in the snake’s gut — but had learned to avoid cane toads, which are poisonous to much of Australia's wildlife and are a rampant pest in the country’s north.
And the explanation for the cane toads’ wild ride on the back of Monty may not come down to sheer laziness but rather some randy impulses.
“I was surprised, from the photo it looks like the snake’s just sitting there, but he was moving quite quickly and they were hanging on for dear life,” Mr Mock said.
“I actually suspect that they were a bit frisky and that’s why they were attached to him, because there’s no other reason they should be wanting a ride because they’re quite capable of swimming and hopping around themselves.
“Those snakes do smell quite a bit, so must be something that smells quite alright for them, they must have been confused. I can’t think of any other reason why they would be on its back.”
Mr Mock pointed out the two cane toads to the right of the photo, which appeared to have gone after each other instead of the 3.5-metre olive python.
The photo went viral when it hit Twitter, with readers around the world both horrified and bemused at the size of the snake and the toads’ randy urges — many declaring the photo an example of “meanwhile in Australia”.
Others lamented the fact the toads were so widespread across the northern Australian landscape, given their invasive pest status and devastating impact on local wildlife.
Mr Mock thought the photo might have had legs when he sent it to his brother, and was glad others could share a laugh at the very Kimberley scenario.
Monty has been a regular visitor to the Mock household, occasionally spooking the family as it makes its way around.
“It does give my wife a fright from time to time because it hangs around the garden near the clothesline, the dog will sense it first and start barking and you’ll have a look and see it crawling through the garden,” Mr Mock said.
“Being such a long snake — 3.5 metres — it can be a bit freaky.
“The last time we had a good look at it and took a photo was when it had a wallaby in its belly and the belly moved, it was so fat. That was a bit creepy.”