One morning we heard impala alarm calling close to the river, which signalled a predator in the area, and our first instinct was to suspect that it was a leopard or a lion. However, when we reached the area, we noticed that these impala were staring at the ground. It was then that we noticed a small impala lamb lying motionless. Wrapped around its fragile body was an African rock python that was at least four metres in length.
A few minutes later the herd moved away leaving the snake with her prize, but we watched fascinated as she continued to squeeze despite the lack of life left in the poor lamb’s body.
The mother impala returned and came close to her baby’s body, distraught and calling in alarm. When the snake was confident that the lamb was dead, it released its grip. It then locked its jaws around the lamb’s nose and efficiently moved it into the undergrowth out of our sight.
Watch the video here:
African rock pythons can reach a length of five to six metres. Although they are not venomous, they can deliver a nasty bite and hold their victim in a vice-like grip whilst they begin to coil around it, constricting their prey. Larger specimens eat antelope and there have been several recordings of them eating humans. Pythons are well camouflaged so can be difficult to spot in the African bush.
Pythons swallow their prey whole, and this is a vulnerable window of time for the snakes as some are killed by leopards and honey badgers in the process. There are also recordings of pythons dying from trying to swallow impala rams.