african rock python
The African rock python with its bulging belly Lake Eland Game Reserve Facebook

A greedy snake's eyes were bigger than its belly as it swallowed a 13.8kg porcupine which ultimately proved to be its last meal.

The giant African rock python, which was 3.9m long, thought that it had found the feast of its life when it spotted the podgy porcupine while it was out for a mid-afternoon slither in the Lake Eland Game Reserve, South Africa.

The game reserve posted a picture on its Facebook page of the snake in a dormant state after eating what staff believed was a "small warthog or an impala calf".

The African Rock Python who is close to our cycle track must have swallowed a small warthog or an impala calf! Should...

Posted by Lake Eland Game Reserve on Tuesday, June 16, 2015

However, the snake was spotted a few days later behind a rocky ledge, still looking rather idle and with its belly still bulging.

On closer inspection, staff found that the python, which is one of Africa's largest species, had actually died.

The python was 3.9m long Lake Eland Game Reserve Facebook

An autopsy was carried out, only to find a porcupine in its stomach, still largely intact but with many of its needle-sharp quills driven through its digestive tract.

Several theories have arisen as to how the snake died. Jennifer Fuller, the reserve's general manager, speculated that a fall from the rocky ledge may have contributed to its gruesome end.

The porcupine had barely been digested Lake Eland Game Reserve Facebook

She said: "The exact reasons for the snake's death are not clear. It is apparent that several porcupine quills were lodged inside the digestive tract. It had fallen off the rocky ledge. We don't know if it died beforehand, or whether the fall drove some of the quills into its digestive tract."

However, a South African snake expert believes that a threat may have scared the snake which then attempted to regurgitate the spiky rodent, which could have proved problematic.

The quills were lodged in the python's digestive tract Lake Eland Game Reserve Facebook

Johan Marais is quoted by Earth Touch News as saying: "Pythons do eat porcupines and usually without problems other than the odd quill stuck somewhere. But when disturbed after a large meal, the natural reaction for a snake is to regurgitate its meal so that it is mobile again and can escape. But regurgitating a porcupine is not that easy, and I am sure that is where things went wrong."