Australia, one of my favorite destinations, is rugged, diverse and full of venomous animals. I never would have imagined that I would be making a very special discovery on one of Australia’s trips.
It was a great shooting day. My crew and I managed to catch a great sea snake and the mood was just right. Our boat docked again at Weipa Harbour, a mining town in northeastern Australia. Tired but satisfied, I walked across the sidewalk toward my jeep. I thought it was time to relax.
Until I saw something crawling away at my feet. There was a small black-and-white-throated snake, less than four feet long and the thickness of a large pencil. Bandy Bundy I recognized this stripe style, shiny skin, and tiny eyes right away. The black and white warning pattern was very similar to the sea snakes we photographed.
Bandit gangs, as their skin pattern suggests, are venomous, but unlike sea snakes, they are not dangerous to humans. Their venom is weak and their mouths are too small to bite us. Gangster pandas are highly specialized hunters who only hunt worm snakes. These cobra-like snakes burrow underground tunnels.
What was this animal doing here, on a concrete block by the sea? I saw the statement down. Nearby was a large pile of bauxite rubble ready for shipment. There, the python most likely crawled after surviving an excavation at a bauxite mining site.
There was something else that caught my attention. At that time, there were five species of pandey pandey known to science, but this species does not appear to be exactly the same. Not surprising in itself, because many variations can also occur within species. But with all my experience with snakes, I had a strong suspicion that there was more going on here.
I’ve referred to fellow Australian biologists and the rest is history. After a few years of morphological and genetic research and a few new sightings of the same species of pandy, the suspicion was confirmed: a snake crawling on a scaffold was completely new to science!
In fact, once he was discovered, he was already threatened. This is due to their poor visibility, small range, and local mining operations that destroy their habitats. Now that we know there are also business teams here, we hope we can protect them. It was a dream to be able to describe a new species after years of research.
Of course I didn’t know that day on the sidewalk. Went for a beer with the guys on a successful shooting day.
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