Jean-Claude Chanu was biking through South Africa’s Lake Eland Game Reserve on June 16 when he came across an unforgettable sight: A nearly 13-foot-long African Rock Python, its body swollen by whatever it had just eaten. “Seeing a snake of that size up close, eating whatever it was eating, was surreal,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like that.” When snakes find large enough prey, they can survive for months without eating again; officials at the game reserve wrote on their Facebook page that the animal “must have swallowed a small warthog or an impala calf!”
But this meal, the snake's last, was not something as mundane as an impala. After the snake was found dead on June 21, an autopsy revealed that it had attempted to eat a 30-pound porcupine. The animal’s quills were lodged in the snake’s digestive tract.
is Africa’s largest snake. The animals can grow to be 20 feet long, and they're exceptionally aggressive. Kenneth Krysko, senior herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told National Geographic in 2009 that the snakes “come out of the egg striking.” The species has even been known to kill people: One rock python strangled two sleeping boys in Canada in 2013, and there are verified reports of the animals killing people in the wild.
This isn’t the first time a species of python has died after biting off more than it could swallow: A Burmese python in the Everglades burst after attempting to eat an alligator.