Tour guides in the Kimberley were left agape last month, when they stumbled across a 2-metre-long Olive Python strangling and then consuming a Little Corella.
The predation event took place at Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary, while the team was out working in the field.
The scene was all-consuming, with all staff unable to peel themselves away from the chow down. Among the people watching on transfixed was Steven Spragg, an Interpretations Guide at Mornington, who witnessed the rare occurrence only six months after joining the Kimberley team.
“It’s common to see Olive Pythons at Mornington and it’s common to see Little Corellas, but seeing one consume the other, that’s not something we see every day,” Steven explained.
Steven captured the python’s banquet in a series of vivid images and said he felt fortunate to have seen nature at its most raw.
“My colleague spotted the commotion after hearing a struggle and the panicked screeches of multiple Corellas,” Steven said. “He witnessed the initial struggle of the bird and its subsequent overpowering before I arrived on the scene.”
“The sneaky snake used a flat section in a Large Ghost Gum as an ambush spot and waited for an opportunity to strike. Olive Pythons are non-venomous and typically suffocate their prey via constriction. That’s exactly what this snake did.
“The feeding commenced at approximately 9.00am and it was around 1.5 hours later that it finished. We all walked away amazed and I was glad I able to capture it on camera.”
While the scene may have been confronting, Elly Gearing, AWC Development and Events Officer, said it didn’t ruffle her feathers and nor should it bother others.
“Pythons need food to survive, just like we humans do,” Elly explained. “While it can be confronting to witness a predator catching its prey, this interaction is exactly what we should expect to see in a healthy ecosystem.”
Pythons are important predators in ecosystems of northern Australia, preying mostly on mammals, birds and other reptiles. There are even a couple of instances where Olive Pythons have been recorded preying on feral cats at Mornington.
“This interaction is also ecologically important because predators, like this python, help regulate populations of prey species. The struggle for survival is the engine that drives evolution by natural selection. Or it was just a super unlucky day for that corella, depends on who you ask!.”
Olive Pythons are endemic to Australia and are Australia’s third largest snake species. They are a uniform chocolate brown to olive green (hence the name) and their belly is usually cream-coloured.
The species can reach up to 4 metres long and can weigh up to 20kg. They are non-venomous and typically suffocate their prey via constriction. Due to their large size, they can take a variety of prey including wallabies, reptiles (even small freshwater crocodiles) and birds. Olive Pythons are ambush predators and utilise a quick strike to ensnare their prey then wrap around its body to prevent escape.
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