Friends come in all shapes and sizes. According to the (U.K.) Daily Mail, an 8-year-old boy has befriended a usually skittish group of marmots during his yearly visits to the Austrian Alps. Since he was 4 years old, Matteo Walch has been traveling with his family to Groslocker in the Austrian Alps for two weeks every year. It was at that young age that Matteo began forming his unusual bond with the mountain marmots. Usually when marmots encounter humans, the animals will chatter their teeth as a warning to stay away. If a human doesn’t back down, the marmots will let out a loud whistle to let others in the colony know that they should flee. When Matteo arrives, there are no chatterings or whistles of warning. Instead, the marmots eagerly approach him.
The animals show affection for the boy, letting him feed them and play with them without hesitation. Matteo’s father, Michaela, has taken photos of his son’s encounters with the animals since their first trip to the Alps. Michaela told the Daily Mail why he thinks his child is an exception to the marmot’s skittishness. “He loves those animals and they are not at all afraid of Matteo because he has a feeling towards them and they understand that.”A nature lover himself, Michaela adores watching Matteo form a close connection with the animals. This bond is not only touching to observe, but allows Michaela to capture pictures of the creatures exhibiting natural behaviors without fear.
Michaela described to the Daily Mail the meaning of photographing his son’s realtionship, saying, “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.” With the annual trip to the Alps still planned for the years to come, it looks like Matteo has many furry, life-long friendships to look forward to.