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The African Rock Python and the Impala Lamb

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. They kill by 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.

Impala alarm calling close to the river in the early morning signalled a predator in the area. Our first instinct was a leopard or a lion. However, these impala were staring at the ground. It was then that we noticed the small impala lamb lying motionless. Wrapped around it’s fragile body was an African Rock Python at least four metres in length. A few minutes later the herd moved away leaving the snake with her prize. 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 it’s grip and locked it’s jaws around the lamb’s nose and efficiently moved it into the undergrowth out of our sight.

Python’s swallow their prey whole. This is a vulnerable window of time for the snakes and some are killed by leopards and honey badgers. There are also recordings of pythons dying from trying to swallow impala rams.

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