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In search of Australia’s monster reptiles

In search of Australia’s monster reptiles 1

Andrew Nicholson

Australia certainly has its share of large and deadly reptiles. The saltwater crocodile grows as large as 7 metres, or 23 feet, and is definitely a seriously deadly predator with a diet that includes the occasional luckless human. The ‘salty’ as they are affectionately known in the Top End are in fact, the world’s largest species of crocodile.

Croc

Then there is the perentie, Australia’s largest monitor lizard. It grows, according to current scientific wisdom, to a maximum of 2.5 metres, or around 8 feet, in length. A little smaller than the world’s largest monitor lizard, the Komodo Dragon, which grows to a length of around 3 metres, or 10 feet.

There may, however, be other monster reptiles surviving undetected in the Australian bush. Monster reptiles like the 18-foot-long Prenty, the deadly and “unnatural” Gonderanup, the gigantic serpent of the Mallee scrub and perhaps even a reptilian hold out from the era of the mega fauna – the megalania.

Seeking an 18 foot lizard

“There is no room for doubt about the existence of the prenty, a gigantic lizard of Central Australia,” reported the Cairns Post on 14 August 1931.

“An early caller at The Telegraph office was Mr. B. W. G. Phillips, a great friend of the late T. C. Wollaston, who discusses the Prenty in his book, ”Opal – We of the Never Never.” The Prenty, according to Wollaston, ”has leisure and space to grow properly. It is powerful in limbs, beautiful in skin, its reach exceptional, eight feet in length when its tongue is fully extended.

“Its color is gamboge yellow, with blackish-grey markings; and perfectly round spots- as large as a shilling – adorn the sides and neck like a pedigree Ayrshire. The prenty has a long head and brilliant eye, and when it stands up with stiffened legs and arched body, its head bent forward, it looks a formidable beast.”

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But Wollaston’s 8-foot-long Prenty, while formidable, would have been no match for the 18-foot-long monster lizard reported in Darwin’s Northern Standard just 5 months later in January 1940.

In Seeking an 18ft. Lizard, it was reported that Fred Blakeley, leader of the first expedition to find the legendary Lasseter’s Reef and known as “The Bicycle Bushman” would soon set off in search of another outback legend – the giant Prenty lizard of Central Australia.

“He hopes to bring back one alive. He claims to be one of the few white men who have seen a giant Prenty. He describes it as a mammoth lizard about 18 feet from snout to tail-tip. Its claw tracks are about 6 feet apart.

“The claws are sharp and poisonous and inflict a wound which festers quickly and rarely heals.

“The giant Prenty, he says, attacks chiefly with its tail. It can fell an ox with a sweeping blow. It is faster than a crocodile and its gait resembles a gallop. The Aborigines call the Prenty a debil debil,” Blakeley told the Northern Standard.

For the local Aborigines, this giant lizard instilled great fear. Even the glare of the giant Prenty was enough to cause certain death.

Blakeley recounted the story of one Aborigine who apparently died at Alice Springs a week after being glared at by one such monster reptile. According to Blakeley, a subsequent medical examination found no cause of death.

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