23 October 2023

Python cannibalism caught on camera in Cape York's wild

| Chisa Hasegawa
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A larger Black-headed python in the middle of swallowing a smaller Black-headedPython.

This python was captured swallowing another python in Cape York’s remote Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo: Supplied.

Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary is no stranger to rare and unique wildlife encounters, but a python spotted eating another python was surprising even in the remote centre of Cape York Peninsula.

Sanctuary manager Nick Stock was walking along the banks of the Archer River when he spotted a Black-headed Python wrapped around another creature. As he got closer, he noticed that the python’s prey was snake-like, and also had a matching black head – the Black-headed Python was about to eat a smaller Black-headed Python alive.

“It was a surprise at first, but I feel fortunate to witness such an event,” he said.

Mr Stock explained that although he has seen the Black-headed Python eat other snake species, this was the first time he’d seen one eat its own kind.

Unfortunately for the snake, it wasn’t quick, giving Mr Stock plenty of time to get a camera and document the event.

“Fortunately for me, but not so fortunately for the python being consumed, it took around 15 minutes from when I first witnessed the initial constriction to the python finishing its meal and returning to its burrow which was only about 10 feet away,” he said.

Cannibalism is known to occur with this species in captivity, but capturing the event in the wild is another story, Australian Wildlife Conservancy Ecologist Dr Helena Stokes said.

“Although cannibalism has been witnessed in this species in captivity and has been reported in the wild, getting images or footage of such an event in the wild is quite unusual and lucky,” she explained.

She added that though it wasn’t a regular occurrence, she wasn’t surprised that the species would consume one of its own when given the chance.

“Black-headed Pythons prefer to eat reptiles over mammals and are known to eat larger reptiles including goannas, and even venomous snakes,” she said.

To read the full story of the encounter, head to https://www.australianwildlife.org/snake-eat-snake-world-python-cannibalism-caught-on-camera-in-far-north-queensland/.

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