Monday, May 9, 2011

Marloth's Pythons



At approximately 5pm on Sunday 17 April, Johan from Field Security told Rudi Schoeman, a Marloth Park Snake Handler, that a large Python had caught a fully grown impala ewe in the Parkland off Renoster Street. Rudi and our Municipal Game Ranger, Jaco Minnaar, saw the large snake wrapped around the ewe. Johan had thought the impala was caught in a snare as it was bleating. He was so was surprised to find an approximately 5m python (weighing about 60 kg) constricting a fully grown impala ewe. The python’s constriction restricts the prey’s circulation and nervous system as well as its respiratory system. The next day Rudi found the python which had already swallowed the whole impala. Note on photo of the snakes scales how the scales have separated to allow the skin to stretch to make space for the enormous meal. The python swallows its prey in the following fashion:

The python disengages its bottom jaw from the top jaw. The bottom jaw then separates into two sections and operates as a ‘scoop’. The swallowing process begins with left hand incisors embedding in the prey and then and holding it, then the snake turns its head to engage the right side incisors. Releasing the left hand incisors, it turns its head again and embeds its left incisors further forward into its prey. Thus it slowly swallows its already dead prey. Note: the python’s teeth are not called fangs as they do not inject venom. So you cannot be poisoned by a python bite but it does have a vicious bite which can then become infected.

This python will take 2 – 3 weeks to digest this impala – it will not move at all for about a week, unless disturbed. Then it will not need to feed again for 2 – 3 months. It is very important not to disturb a feeding python or it will regurgitate its meal in order to be able to ‘escape’ what it sees as potential danger.

Pythons are beautiful, protected snakes and we are privileged to have this magnificent creature in Marloth Park and Lionspruit.

Prepared by Joce Gordon and Rudi Schoeman 18/04/11