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Australia

10 toads hitch ride on a python ‘to escape Australian floodwaters’. Yes, there’s a photo – and a sexy twist to the tale

  • 3.5-metre snake was ‘moving across the grass at full speed with the frogs hanging on’
  • The strange sight, captured in remote Kununurra in Western Australia, may represent unusual sexual behaviour by the toads
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 January, 2019, 7:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2019, 5:41pm

A huge storm in Australia’s north on Sunday flushed out a sight which either fascinated or horrified those who saw it – 10 cane toads riding the back of a 3.5 metre python.

Paul and Anne Mock were at home with their daughters in the remote Western Australian town of Kununurra, when a large storm dumped almost 70mm of rain into their dam.

Worried the dam and spillway might break its banks, Paul Mock ventured outside in the middle of the lightning and rain.

“The lake was so full it had filled the cane toad burrows around the bank and they were all sitting on top of the grass – thousands of them,” he said. “He was in the middle of the lawn, making for higher ground.”

“He” was Monty, a 3.5m resident python also fleeing the rising water, only with a band of cheeky travellers on board.

“He was literally moving across the grass at full speed with the frogs hanging on,” said Mock said. “I thought it was fascinating that some of the local reptiles have gotten used to [the cane toads] and not eating them.”

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Mock’s brother Andrew posted a photograph of the sight to Twitter, prompting horror, amazement and jokes about the outback Uber.

Amphibian expert Jodi Rowley, a senior lecturer in biological sciences at the University of New South Wales, said on Twitter that the male cane toads may have been trying to mate with the python.

Cane toads are a damaging pest in Australia’s tropical north, with their apparently unstoppable march from east to west over the past few decades invading communities and devastating ecosystems and native species, which often die after eating the unfamiliar and very toxic invaders.

In Kununurra, Mock said, all the big goannas were the first to disappear.

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“They are starting to come back, and the snakes did go quiet but they’re starting to come back too,” he said.

“You just learn to kick the toads out of the way when you go into your house at night. They’re attracted to the light. They’re on the driveway and you dodge them.

“You kind of almost forget they’re there until you see how many there are when they’re all out of the burrows.”

The devastation caused by cane toads has inspired some unconventional attempts to save the native wildlife, including community toad busting groups, and training animals not to eat them.

Some, like Monty, appear to have taught themselves.