Giant lizard attack: Australian couple injured by huge reptile in 'horrific and freak ordeal'

An elderly man and woman were hospitalized in Australia last week after a large lizard "suddenly turned on them" and nearly killed their dog. 

The attack took place on Thursday, near Airlie Beach in the state of Queensland, according to the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC)

Rescuers said the 72-year-old man, who has not been publicly identified, underwent surgery and suffered significant blood loss after attempting to save his dog, named Lily, from the lizard. His wife, also unidentified, suffered a bite to her leg. Both are in stable condition. 

RACQ CQ Rescue, the emergency helicopter service that saved the couple, described the attack as "a horrific and freak ordeal."

"The reptile suddenly turned on them, latching onto the man's right arm and leg as well as biting the woman's leg," a spokesperson for RACQ CQ Rescue told ABC.

ABC reported that the couple was attacked by a goanna, also known as an Australian monitor lizard. Goannas are known to be aggressive at times and can grow up to six and a half feet long

Dave Ryan, a reptile keeper for the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, told ABC that it is not out of character for a goanna to go after an animal such as a pet dog.

"Unfortunately these lizards basically eat anything that's made out of meat, they're not fussy at all," Ryan said. "So rodents, birds, they'll even eat other lizards, other reptiles, so something the size of a small dog or a cat is right up there on the menu for these guys."

Ryan said that while goannas are often aggressive, an attack like this is "definitely out of the ordinary." Still, the reptile expert warned about the dangers of encountering a lizard of that size.

"They will scratch your arms up, but the bite is far worse than any of the scratches, those razor-sharp teeth just open you up very, very easily," Ryan told ABC. "Sounds like [the man is] quite lucky, however, to have sustained the injuries that he has and still be in a stable condition."

Early reports erroneously stated that the dog, a long-haired Jack Russell mix, died in the attack. When the woman found out her pet had survived, she said it was "the best news I've heard all day." 

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