Wildlife experts have been left mystified after children discovered nests of suspected snake eggs in their school sandpit.
Volunteers from animal rescue group FAWNA dug up 43 eggs spread across seven nests following the discovery at the school in the Australian coastal town of Laurieton just before Christmas, with initial fears they could belong the deadly eastern brown snake.
Australian Reptile Park general manager Tim Faulkner told the country’s Daily Telegraph newspaper the eggs more likely belonged to a water dragon lizard, but FAWNA later released a statement insisting the group was “fairly certain” the eggs had come from a snake.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the group revealed that the eggs – which were relocated to a bushy area a short distance away – had hatched.
“Due to the fact of all of the controversy I went back and checked on the nest and found that all but one of the eggs had hatched,” the post read.
“The remaining egg contained a small pink worm-like embryo with two eyes and no sign of legs. It may or may not have been a snake but the good news is that all animals have been released and living in the wild.”
The post says that “examination, research and cross-checking” led the group to believe the eggs could have belonged to a snake, and that they “couldn’t take the chance of them not being a harmless reptile”.
Mr Faulkner said the school’s proximity to water and the fact that the eggs had been buried made the snake theory unlikely, but FAWNA decided that it was in the “best interest of everyone” to relocate the eggs just in case.
Eastern brown snakes are the deadliest Down Under and – while they are said to avoid human contact where possible – the Australian Reptile Park website describes them as “temperamental and dangerous”.
“They may exceed two metres in length and, on hot days, can move at surprising speed,” the park’s website states.