Schoolboy, eight, forms special relationship with colony of alpine marmots
They are notoriously shy around humans, beating their tails and chattering their teeth to try to warn us off before emitting loud whistles to tell other members of their colony to flee.
But when these alpine marmots see Matteo Walch, they scuttle to his side and show him nothing but affection.
The eight-year-old built up a remarkable relationship with the creatures since first being taken to see them by his nature-loving family four years ago.
The family return to visit the colony in Groslocker in the Austrian Alps for two weeks every year.
Matteo’s father Michaela, said: ‘Their friendship has lasted for more than four years now.
‘He loves those animals and they are not at all afraid of Matteo because he has a feeling towards them and they understand that.
‘We go there every year now for two weeks - it’s amazing to watch the connection between a boy and his animal friends.’Marmots stand at around 18cm tall and reach up to 50cm in length.Michaela, a schoolteacher from Innsbruck, Austria, has uniquely captured the unique bond between Matteo and his marmot friends throughout the past four years.
He said: ‘I could spend hours watching animals - it gives me a connection with nature and its life forms.
‘It’s great that I have been able to document the marmot’s natural behaviour around Matteo without making them afraid of me and my equipment.
‘I wanted to capture the animals exactly the way I see them - the way they behave among each other, in harmony with their surroundings.’
It is clear from the pictures that Matteo and the marmots are totally comfortable in each other’s company.
Michaela, 46, said: ‘The picture of a curious animal approaching me is a thousand times more beautiful than the picture of any animal looking at me in fear before it takes flight.
‘This is how I try to picture the proudest, more beautiful and also the funniest moments, giving others the opportunity to enjoy the miraculous world of animals.’
sarah8888: This is beautiful.
Aww, I want to be friends with the marmots.
I was always the kind of kid who wanted to be friends with the animals, but they’d always just attack me. For example, this one time I thought I could make an angry magpie stop shouting at me, so I took a few steps forward and tried to show the bird, with the amazing powers in my mind and body, that I would not harm it. I was then chased around the oval for about 5 minutes while this magpie pecked at my head, and I hid in the bottom of a low-hanging tree to escape it. This was during PE by the way, so all the kids playing sports were laughing at me. I was crying.
The marmots would probably bash me in the head repeatedly with their tails.