Monkeys don’t often get caught unawares.
Although presumed to have a largely arboreal lifestyle, they do in fact spend a significant portion of their day on the ground whilst foraging, but sharp-eyed sentries posted in the trees above are usually alert enough to spot any approaching predators. 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.
One predator that can slip under the radar is a reptilian one; the African Rock Python.
Incredibly well camouflaged, these snakes can completely disappear in a thicket or the long grass, and one unlucky monkey met its fate in the coils of just such a creature recently, as witnessed by ranger Fin Lawlor.
The largest African Rock Pythons can grow to in excess of 5 metres long, with some specimens reportedly topping the 6m mark. Although the individual in this particular sighting certainly wasn’t in that category, it was more than capable of asphyxiating a vervet monkey. Pythons kill by wrapping their coils around an animal’s ribcage, and when their victim exhales, the python squeezes just a little bit tighter. With each breath their prey is able to inhale less and less, and eventually cannot take in enough oxygen to remain conscious and dies.
When Fin arrived at the sighting, the monkey was already dead and the python was trying to swallow it headfirst.
What happened next can be seen in the video below, taken by Londolozi guest Wilhelm Weslau:
Interestingly enough reports Fin, the rest of the monkey troop were still in the area, watching the scene unfold from the tree tops but not alarming, which they usually will when one of their number has fallen victim to a predator.
As there was no alarming from the troop and no commotion from the python, Fin and tracker Innocent Ngwenya felt that the hyenas were simply out foraging and happened to be in the area; there was nothing to really draw them to the scene. Hyenas are incredibly curious animals though, investigating any lead that might secure them a meal. There’s always the chance that they glimpsed the vehicles from afar and came to investigate.
Whatever their reason for arriving, there was no way the python was going to be able to compete with them. One can see in the video that it is the monkey the hyenas are after, not the snake. The already-dead primate represented an easier meal so would have been the automatic target. 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.
Needless to say, the monkey carcass didn’t last long between three hungry hyenas!