By Dan Howlett @DanHowlett85

A HELPLESS mother impala could do nothing more than watch as an African rock python devoured her lamb whole

Scroll down for the full story

Videographer / director: Michelle Sole
Producer: Dan Howlett, Nick Johnson
Editor: Joshua Douglas

Raise the alarm: The cries of the impalas alerted Michelle to the struggle of the calf

Wildlife guide Michelle Sole captured the incredible footage at the Marakele National Park in South Africa last month.

She was alerted to the presence of a predator by a herd of impalas’ cries and came across the rare sight of the python enjoying its meal.

Undergrowth: The python was sure to drag its prize out of the way of opportunist predators before devouring it whole

Michelle said: “We noticed the herd were staring at the ground and when we got closer we found a small, motionless impala with a four metre rock python wrapped around its fragile body.

Hunter becomes hunted: After such a big meal the python will need to rest - meaning it could fall victim to predators

“A few minutes later the herd moved away leaving the snake with her prize, but we looked on fascinated as she continued to squeeze despite the lack of life left in the poor lamb’s body.

“The mother impala returned and came close to her baby, distraught and calling in alarm but there was nothing she could do.

Tight grip: The python made sure the animal was dead before letting go and beginning to devour it

“When the snake was confident the lamb was dead it released its grip and then locked its jaws around the lamb’s nose and moved it into the undergrowth to swallow it whole.”

Looking on: Unfortunately the herd and the calf's mother were powerless to act

The African Rock Python is Africa’s largest snake capable of reaching up to seven metres in length and weights of 90kg.

Big meal: It will take the python weeks to fully digest the impala

While they are not venomous they are capable of delivering a nasty bite and constrict their prey to kill it.

Incredibly the snake can swallow prey three times wider than its own head.

Suffocation: The python is not venomous but instead constricts its prey to kill it

Elastic ligaments allow the jaws to stretch apart and the two sides of the lower jaw are not joined to each other.

If it needs to it is able to divide its upper jaws as well, giving its head four sections that can move independently.

Dislocation: The python can use its jaw in four separate pieces to swallow prey much larger than itself

The acid in the python’s stomach will break everything from this impala down, including hooves and horns. Digestion of such a big meal may take weeks, during which the snake will be more vulnerable to predators.

But after such a meal this snake might not need to feed again for up to a year.