Jos Bakker, a Dutch web designer, posted a video to YouTube showing the bizarre scene he discovered March 1 at the side of a road in the Masai Mara game reserve.
Bakker soon realized the python was feasting on an adult hyena.
The tourist and his guide told researchers at Fisi Camp what they had seen, and research assistants Mike Kowalski and Olivia Spagnuolo were then dispatched to see if they could find the snake and confirm it was indeed swallowing a fully grown adult hyena.
The researchers said they found the snake and confirmed to their surprise that Bakker’s account was accurate. They said the kill was highly unusual because it’s rare for pythons to attack large animals bearing jaws that could easily crush the snake’s skull.
“To my knowledge there has been no precedent for this in terms of documentation,” Kowalski told National Geographic. “Large carnivores can certainly interact with large pythons, as their cubs are probably on the menu, but an adult lion or leopard or hyena would likely dispatch the python very quickly.”
The researchers said the python likely ambushed the hyena as it was searching for a resting spot in a drainage area.
“For the hyena, I would say this rock python had to be perfect,” Kowalski said. “If it did not immediately strike and coil the neck-chest region to immobilize the head, the hyena could’ve easily crushed the python’s skull.”