Most people are normally not very big fans of snakes, but you have to appreciate them for the incredible animals that they are.
African Rock Pythons are currently listed in the South African Red Data Book as vulnerable. Large ones are often killed as they are a threat to local communities and their livestock. Therefore, the really big ones are an incredibly rare sight. A few interesting facts:
- They can grow over 6 meters in length and reach weights of over 50kgs
- African Rock Pythons, as with all pythons, are non-venomous
- It kills by constricting, ambushing and coiling around its prey. As ambush predators, they strike quickly and unexpectedly
- They don’t have fangs but numerous sharp, needle-like fixed recurved teeth with they use to hold onto their prey and immobilise them while they wrap their body around and start squeezing. They squeeze tighter each time their prey exhales, lessening the lung capacity with each squeeze. The prey eventually dies of asphyxiation
- African rock pythons can open their mouths quite wide to swallow their prey. They always swallow their prey head first and whole, while their stomach acids break it down later
- They mostly feed on small mammals and birds but have also been known to take down medium-sized mammals like Impala
On one morning drive not too long ago we heard about a sighting of one of these large Pythons down by the Klaserie River and had to check it out for ourselves!
My guests had no idea the surprise my tracker Vusi and I had in store for them. We only mentioned that they will get to see something really special. On our way to the location, we could sense their excitement building. On arrival at the site, Vusi and I, together with our guests approached with caution, slowly making our way through the grass until we could all see what was waiting for us. Upon walking closer we discovered that the Python was wrapped around an Impala!
At first, the Pythons head could not be seen, so we weren’t sure from which way to approach. Luckily the snake popped up its head and we got the opportunity to take a couple of pictures. We were very careful not to disturb the snake as they would abandon their prey to flee for safety. After lots of photos, we decided to leave the Python in peace and headed back to the vehicle.
This incredible sighting was the talking point of the whole stay and something my guests and I will never forget.
That was possibly a once in a lifetime experience and another successful day at the office for me, especially seeing something so rare, as this interesting reptile is one of the most fascinating creatures to meet while on safari.
Story and photos by Buffalo Camp Ranger Hancho with Tracker Vusi
Post courtesy of Kapama Game Reserve