An African python dies prematurely after swallowing a 30-pound porcupine, but that's not what killed it

Unusual circumstances led to the pre-mature death of one of the world’s largest species of snakes, the African rock python, on June 20. (Warning: graphic images of the snake’s insides below.)

Six days earlier, the snake had swallowed something big, indicated by the giant bulge in its belly.

A biker first came across the snake shortly after its meal. Word quickly got out and people were soon flocking to the Eland Game Reserve in South Africa to see the snake slowly digesting its prey.

That’s when things took a turn for the worse.

“We think that maybe with so many people viewing it, [that] put it under stress,” Jennifer Fuller, who works at the reserve, told the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP). “And when a snake is under stress, it normally regurgitates and brings up its meal so that it can get away.”

Normally, regurgitating its meal shouldn’t have been a problem for the snake. But this was no ordinary meal. An autopsy of the snake after it died showed that the animal inside was a 30-pound porcupine decked out with thousands of needle-sharp quills.

As Africa’s largest species of snake, the African rock python will eat just about anything including goats (hooves and all) and antelopes, which can reach well over 100 pounds. Porcupines are also a regular dish on the snake’s menu, Fuller told AFP.

So, despite its quills, the porcupine shouldn’t have been the snake’s final, fatal meal. A problem arose when the snake got stressed and tried to regurgitate the porcupine.

The quills seem to have punctured the snake’s digestive tract, according to CNN. And these puncture wounds could have led to the snake’s death, though Fuller and other experts are not certain this is the primary reason the snake died.

“Sadly it did die, which is unusual because it should have been fine,” Fuller told AFP.

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