The leopard was unashamed. Lithe and sleek, her coat bristled and shone in the early morning sunlight as she strolled down the road. Every few paces her tail would swiftly flick the insects bothering her and then settle once again into her graceful stride. She was the Vomba Female, a mature leopard whose large territory covered much of the prime Sand River running through Londolozi.
The Vomba female was a leopard with an instantly recognisable rich golden coat. She spent much of her life around the Londolozi Camps.
As she continued forward, something caught her eye in the depths of a termitaria thicket. It was subtle and camouflaged causing her to stare at it warily before venturing off the road into the dry bushveld for further investigation. The snake had not sensed her coming and now found itself shifting further into the thicket to avoid a confrontation. It was a massive African Rock Python, colossal in its girth and length. Its muscular body rolled through the crunching leaves winding, curling and coiling itself into a defensive position.
Vomba’s curiosity could not be denied. With typical catlike inquisition she padded her way towards the python. She was not afraid, rather cocky and sure of herself, as if she just wanted to toy with the reptile for fun. Moving swiftly now, Vomba reached inside the thicket and sunk her claws into the pythons wide body. There was plenty of skin to grab as the snake reacted with fright to the sudden aggression and now found itself being dragged out into the open. Turning to face its assailant, the serpentine head emerged to the left of Vomba ready to attack. With deadly accuracy and speed the python lunged forward to strike. It was not quick enough as Vomba’s lightning quick paw shot out and swatted the snake back down to the ground, dragging it further out the bush and into the clearing. The moment was brief as python and leopard became embroiled in a violent confrontation until Vomba leapt away as the python regained composure.
The momentary aftermath saw the snake desperately moving back under cover and Vomba shrugging off any interest in the matter. With a final gaze, she bristled, turned and with a flick of her tail continued walking down the road from which she had come. An astonishing interaction between two species in their prime condition.
Video Footage: Arlene Bonin (Londolozi Guest)
Photographs: Rich Laburn & Gavin Lautenbach
Written by: Rich Laburn
Filed under Wildlife
Hi JP, It is more likely that the snake was just starting to come out of hibernation. You’ll notice from the colour of the skin it is quite dark indicating lack of consistent sunlight. There is a chance it could have been digesting something, however pythons that long are typically matched with a similar girth. My thoughts are based on two options: firstly, the snake digested a large prey before going into hibernation and subsequently grew through the winter. This last week as the heat here has increased, the python started to move around again. Secondly, the snake might have been digesting a small prey, which would have given it a slightly larger girth. Let me know what you think.
But I agree, what an enormous python.