Klippies on the rocks

Visitors to Welgevonden were treated to what probably is a regular occurrence but is seldom seen.

A Southern African Python (Python natalensis), formerly known as the Rock Python, caught and ingested a mature female Klipspringer (Oreotragus oretragus).

The epic incident happened over a period of about 6 hours.

Enthralled onlookers were able to witness how the Python, estimated at about 3.5 metres in length, systematically swallowed the Klipspringer, pausing for long periods before further constricting its coils while aligning and streamlining its prey in order to swallow it.

Onlookers were dismayed at the relatively small size of the snake compared to the prey it was ingesting. A mature Klipspringer ewe has a total mass of about 13 kg (compared to the ram which weighs about 10kg).

Python often ambush their prey, latching on with their powerful recurved teeth and then constrict it.

Johan Marais in his book, ‘The Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa’ states that contrary to popular belief, the Python does not crush its prey to death and never breaks any bones in the process. Death is thought to result from cardiac failure.

Photos of the incident (kindly provided by Traci and Joffe van Reenen from Site 8) show how the Python used its tail to align the Klipspringer. The mouth, neck and upper abdomen are so distorted that it renders them unrecognisable as a Python.

After the Klipspringer was fully ingested the Python slowly moved off in the direction of the Sterkstroomriver, to no doubt bask in the sun and digest its well-deserved meal.