Australian ranger captures the moment when python devours wallaby for a giant meal

A wallaby is pictured, on Nov 13, 2014, at a zoo in Mulhouse, eastern France. -- PHOTO: AFP
A wallaby is pictured, on Nov 13, 2014, at a zoo in Mulhouse, eastern France. -- PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian ranger has captured the moment a python swallowed a wallaby at a national park in a giant feast that could keep it full for three months.

Ranger Paul O'Neill was patrolling Nitmiluk National Park in the Northern Territory when he heard numerous birds making alarm calls and came across the feeding frenzy.

"I saw at first a snake, an olive python, but then on closer inspection I realised it had just... killed a young joey and was just about to start to devour it," Mr O'Neill told AFP of his discovery on Monday. He said the medium-build python, a constrictor, was between 2.5m to 3m long.

"That would be the largest-size prey that a snake of that size could take," Mr O'Neill, who documented the digesting process in a series of photographs, said. "And whilst I watched it devouring it, which took about 40 minutes, it really did struggle until it got over the hump of the belly and then it slid down, so that feed is going to last that snake for a good two to three months.

"That lump will take roughly 24 hours, maybe a bit more, to disappear so it breaks that food down quite quickly, but then it will just be virtually hibernating for a month," he said.

The python would have most likely caught its prey by lunging at and then coiling around the wallaby while it was eating fruits that had fallen from a plum tree, before squeezing it to death, he added.

The olive python is one of Australia's largest snakes and can grow to 4.5m and weigh up to 20kg. It is a non-venomous, mostly nocturnal reptile found in arid to sub-humid areas of northern Australia.