Nature exists in a constant state of two extremes. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and horrifyingly brutal – all at once, all the time. A python slowly constricting its prey before a meal is undeniably mesmerizing, but its ruthless, methodic movements are almost too much to watch.
The African rock python is an unbelievably powerful animal, capable of capturing and devouring animals far larger than itself. Though it commonly eats prey like antelope, the massive python has also been known to make a meal of other predators, even crocodiles.
But even the largest snake in Africa isn’t exempt from the brutality of nature. And if they don’t plan their meal just right, they, too, can and will fall victim to the vulturous laws of the jungle.
This is the fate that befell an ambitious African rock python who successfully took down an impala only to be attacked and killed by hyenas mere hours later.
Mark Nicholson, a wildlife photographer who captured both gruesome scenes, recounted the incident in the caption of the post.
“We came across this huge African rock python that had just caught a female impala and was in the process of swallowing it. It took the snake over 4 hours to swallow the impala,” he said. “And we knew it would be extremely vulnerable that evening as it could not move.”
Wildlife Photographer Recounts Gruesome Python Death
The next day, their suspicions were confirmed when they encountered the snake for a second time. This time, however, the snake no longer had the upper hand. While incapacitated by its enormous meal, the python was attacked by what he assumed to be a pack of hyenas.
“The next morning, we came back to the spot where our guides had last seen the snake,” Nicholson said. “We found the snake and immediately saw open bites and wounds all along the snake’s body.”
“So during the night, more than likely, a few hyenas came across the snake and attacked it,” he continued. “Not for the snake but for the impala inside the snake.”
“They would have harassed and bitten the snake, forcing it to regurgitate the impala. Then, once regurgitated, they would have made off with it, leaving the snake to die from its wounds.”
Because of their ability to bring down such large prey, African rock pythons don’t eat very often. Rather than a daily meal, the huge snakes can go weeks, even months, between hunts.
Though they have seldom few natural predators, their mealtime is easily the most dangerous for them. While digesting their occasional dinner, pythons become far more vulnerable to hyenas and wild dogs, which, as you can see, aren’t afraid to take advantage of an easy meal – straight from a snake’s stomach.