This photograph of two shingleback lizards, one recently run over by a car, was captured by Lachlan Gilding, and is a shortlisted image in the ‘Our Impact’ category of the 2020 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year awards.

Lachlan was on his way down to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia when he stumbled across the scene. “By this point in the trip I had seen many shingleback lizards scurrying across the road, but I could see something wasn’t right when this particular animal was acting in a defensive way. After pulling off the road I quickly found out why.”

Sometimes referred to as the ‘faithful lizard’, shinglebacks are the only known monogamous reptile species in the world. They live for up to 50 years and during that time, acquire long-term partners, which they stay in close proximity to by using sent trails. 

Exactly why they establish these long term bonds is unknown, but scientists have suggested it may be for protection. In an article for Australian Geographic, Tim Low writes, “the male has been known to travel immediately behind the female and wait in place while she feeds, sacrificing food to serve as look-out.”

Related: The Faithful Lizard

That’s why this image is much sadder than at first thought. “Seeing this animal trying to defend its long deceased partner from passing vehicles was heartbreaking,” Lachlan says. “These lizards mate for life and so this particular animal was likely going to defend its partner until it eventually would meet the same fate.”

Lachlan hopes that by entering the image into the photo competition, people will become aware of the impact roads have on Australia’s wildlife. “These images can sometimes be difficult to look at, though I believe these scenes are incredibly important to push a message of conservation, in this case, slow down and look out for wildlife.”

See the full list of shortlisted images from the ‘Our Impact’ category:

Related: AG Nature Photographer of the Year 2020: Our impact shortlist