The g.r.i.s.l.y moment a snake eagle t.o.r.e apart its favourite prey inside a South African nature reserve has been caught on camera.
Graeme Mitchley, a teacher from the suburbs of Johannesburg, recorded the footage on a recent visit to Kruger National Park.
He explained that he was driving out of the park when the eagle picked up a venomous puff adder that was slithering across the road and took it to the side of the road to eat.
Pinning the reptile down in such a way that it could not use its fangs, the eagle began to eat it while it was still alive.
Graeme said: ‘I felt sorry for the snake and this was a scene that was not easy to watch. Even now when I watch the video I get u.p.s.e.t at the snake suffering.
‘Not many people like snakes but this was a painfully slow d.e.a.t.h.’
He explained that snake eagles typically k.i.l.l their prey by driving their talons through the snake’s body, k.i.l.l.i.n.g it before it can s.t.r.i.k.e.
But in this case, the eagle chose to eat its prey alive.
‘People have asked me why the snake didn’t try and s.t.r.i.k.e the bird. All I can think of is that the eagle had the snake well pinned down and had possibly b.r.o.k.e.n the snake’s back which limited its movements,’ he added.
‘Snake-eagle legs and toes are covered in thick scales that help protect them from bites. Snake bites are a serious risk: snake eagles take on some of the swiftest and deadliest snakes in the world [and] are not immune to the v.e.n.o.m.
‘The snake eagle t.o.r.e the snake in half and soon after flew away to enjoy his supper with only the tail end in his beak – the end without venom.
‘The v.e.n.o.m glands are located in the head of the puff adder. This part of the snake was left lying on the road.’
When he went back the next day there was no trace of the adder to be found, and he speculates that some kind of scavenger finished off what the eagle wouldn’t eat.
Brown snake eagles mostly inhabit central regions of Kruger where they feed on adders, mambas, boomslang snakes, and grass snakes.
They have also been known to eat chameleons and other small mammals.