A python sighting is always exciting, but seeing a python consuming a 5-month old impala on Lissataba is extra special. A reasonably large herd of impala have taken to spending the night on the plains down by site 23. Returning from a walk one evening, we heard the impalas start to alarm call. The racket continued for a unusually long time, so we decided to go down and take a look. At the base of a dense raisin bush the aggressor had pulled down an impala, twitching in its final death throws, the rest of the heard stood around, understandably distressed. Some of the ewes even pushed closer, braying at the snake; rearing and coiled ready to defend its supper.
The python proceeded to drag the impala a little way into the bush, and began the long process of disassembling its jaw to swallow the antelope. We estimated that it measured between 3 and 4 metres, which would allow for the snake to be easily 20 years old.
Interestingly the snake aided the swallowing process by wrapping two coils of itself behind the fore shoulders of the impala and forcing the animal into its massive gape. We watched as the four major segments of the jaw spread, with impossible elasticity, over the shoulders. Having overcome the initial hump of the head, and with the shoulders all but digested, it was surprising how quickly the rest of the body slipped down. What initially took an hour or so, suddenly culminated in minutes. The python retreated further into the bush with an extremely unsubtle protrusion in its midriff.
Upon inspection the following morning it appeared that they reptile had found its way into an especially sinister looking hole amongst the roots of a large jackalberry; a fitting place to spend the next couple of months digesting some prime venison. Nonetheless, the python’s stunning evolutionary capability has now set it up for a catholic diet of nothing until July. Atkins eat your heart out!
N.B. Delving into the literature on pythons since this event, we have found that, though very small antelopes and young impalas are relatively common prey for pythons, almost-fully-grown impalas are a much less recorded meal. Lissataba wins gold for bush idiosyncrasies once again!
By Mark & Liz (Site 23)