Andy, our resident caretaker at Eaglehawk Waterhole, contacted me early one Sunday morning back in September with this photo of a large reptile he’d just seen. He’d been out fumigating rabbit warrens and said it “scared the %$#@ out of me… almost trod on it.”
Well, I consulted the reference books to identify the creature and came up with Sand Goanna or Varanus gouldii. Then for a bit of weekend fun, I forwarded the message to Mark Hutchinson from the SA Museum who is a reptile expert and would give us confirmation.
Within minutes, a reply came through, “Sand Goanna, no dark cross bands on back, pale stripes along the neck – gee, it looks a big one.“
So finally, after four years of hoping a goanna would wander through Eaglehawk, one finally has.
Sand Goannas are considered rare in the South East. They live in burrows with an entrance which has an arched top (and a flat bottom). They use burrows mainly as a retreat during weather extremes and to avoid trouble but otherwise will climb trees to avoid predators and to take it easy. Sand Goannas are carnivores, eating animals smaller than themselves, although insects and carrion are on the menu too. Like snakes, they can unhinge their jaws to swallow large prey, but interestingly keep eating if prey is abundant.
Goannas are one of the species I revere the most in Australia. I recall seeing them in the South East at Pertendi Bore (Ngarkat Conservation Park), Jip Jip, Lucindale, Mandina Marshes and even Bray over the years, so to have one in the Bangham area is fabulous.
Considering that in my over 20 years of working in the region and having only seen goannas five times, I think it fair to say that every sighting counts. So, if you see any, please report them to Natural Resources South East (8735 1177) or to us at Nature Glenelg Trust (8797 8596).
Overall, what a ripper surprise, well done Andy!