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Matteo and the Marmots :
The school boy, 8, who has struck up a remarkable friendship with a colony of alpine animals. Matteo Walch has struck up a friendship with a group of marmots in the Austrian Alps. 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. Matteos 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 – its amazing to watch the connection between a boy and his animal friends.
Marmots stand at around 18cm (0.39cm to an inch) tall and reach up to 50cm in length. Bizarrely, the animals are heavier in the autumn, when they can weigh up to 8kg (17.64lb), in comparison to 3kg(6.614lb) in the spring months.
Furry friends; The school boy from Innsbruck first met the clan of marmots four years ago on a family holiday and has returned every year since
Unlikely pair: The normally shy marmots show Matteo nothing but affection when he visits them at Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria .
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. ‘Its great that I have been able to document the marmots 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.
A member of the clan: The marmots gather around Matteo when he arrives and let him feed them and play with them despite normally running away from humans. Matteo and his family spend two weeks every year in the Alps visiting his marmot friends.
Nose to nose: A marmot greets eight-year-old Matteo on the slopes of the Austrian Alps.
It is clear from the pictures that Matteo and the marmots are totally comfortable in each others 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.
Jealous: One marmot is so keen to get his attention that it has climbed up into Matteo’s lap for a cuddle.