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Python loses its monkey meal to a trio of hungry hyenas

For predators in the African bush, competition for food is never far away; there’s always a risk that a hard-earned meal could be snatched away by a burlier rival. 

While on a recent safari in South Africa’s Londolozi Private Game Reserve, tourist Wilhelm Weslau captured a short clip of an African rock python losing a meal to the opportunistic thievery of a clan of spotted hyenas.

Weslaco arrived at the sighting after the sizeable constrictor had already dispatched its prey. As the python began the lengthy process of swallowing its quarry, it was interrupted by a trio of hyenas that immediately took advantage of an easy lunch. “Hyenas are incredibly curious animals … investigating any lead that might secure them a meal,” writes James Tyrrell over on the Londolozi blog.

Although the rest of the monkey troop were watching the scene unfold from the safety of the tree tops, they had fallen silent, so there was a little commotion to attract the hyenas. “There’s always the chance that they glimpsed the vehicles from afar and came to investigate,” Tyrrell adds. Once they had locked eyes on the snake and its freshly killed prey, there was little chance for the python to retain its meal. “Once the snake realised it was outmatched, it wasted no time in unravelling itself from around the monkey and slithering hastily towards the nearest tree, going up into the branches for safety,” Tyrrell explains.

A monkey is no easy target and it’s likely that this python used its impressive camouflage to launch an ambush attack on its prey. Monkeys often forage on the ground where they may be more vulnerable; however, vigilant sentries remain stationed in treetop posts to sound the alarm if any approaching predators are detected. “We have recorded monkeys alarming at leopards over 800 metres away, and the larger raptors like martial eagles will be enough for the sentries to sound a warning,” writes Tyrrell.

This python, however, infiltrated the troop undetected. African rock pythons can grow to over five metres long and will feed on everything from antelopes to fruit bats. There is even a record from Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve of a python swallowing an adult hyena. In this case, however, the cackling carnivores took the prize, leaving the python short of a meal.

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