A conservationist has captured the extraordinary moment a cannibalistic black-headed python attacked and ate another snake of its own species while it was still alive.
AWC sanctuary manager Nick Stock stumbled on the bizarre sight at the Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary in Far North Queensland while checking on the status of a second arson event across the 165,000-hectare property.
Mr Stock spotted a black-headed python’s distinct head as he walked along the banks of the Archer River, located within the southern boundary of the sanctuary.
Upon closer inspection, he realised that the snake was eating the smaller one.
An Aussie conservationist stumbled across a black headed python eating another live black headed python
The larger python had started consuming the live python from the tail and was moving towards it’s head.
‘It was a surprise at first, but I feel really fortunate to witness such an event,’ Mr Stock said.
‘I have previously witnessed Black-headed Pythons eating an Eastern Brown Snake and a Yellow Spotted Monitor, however, this was the first time I witnessed a Black-headed Python eating another Black-headed Python.
‘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.
‘This gave me plenty of time to get a camera and document the event,’ Stock said.
Cannibalisation occasionally occurs amongst the species.
AWC Wildlife Ecologist, Dr Helena Stokes, said it was a very rare sight to document.
‘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 said.
The rare cannibalisation event occurred at the Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuary in Far North Queensland
Black headed pythons – also known as aspidites melanocephalus – are found throughout northern Australia and grow to about three metres in length.
Their diet consists of small mammals and other reptiles, which can include skinks, goannas and even venomous snakes.
‘Black-headed pythons prefer to eat reptiles over mammals and are known to eat larger reptiles including goannas, and even venomous snakes, so I’m not surprised that they would consume another python if the opportunity arose,’ Dr Stokes explained.
‘By consuming other individuals, they are also reducing competition for resources in the area.
They are non-venomous and are generally considered harmless to humans.