Warning Graphic Content: THIS python’s eyes were too big for its stomach as it attempted to eat a leopard – only for the big cat to use one of its nine lives to emerge the victor.
The hungry duo initially had their eyes on an unsuspecting impala, but the hunter soon became the hunted when the python decided to super-size his lunch and try his luck with the leopard instead.
Initially caught off guard, the big cat leapt into the air and swiped with its enormous paws as the python tried to squeeze it into submission at Maasai Mara Triangle Reserve in Kenya.
Horrified safari onlookers were certain the leopard would be on the menu as it lay helplessly trapped in the snake’s vice-like grip.
However the big cat managed to claw his way out and deliver a final killer bite, with photographer Mike Welton, 28, on hand to capture the drama unfold.
Mike, from Ontario, Canada, said: “We all had a moment thinking about how terrible it was that we were watching a beautiful leopard get killed.
“Python constriction is horrible and it was sickening to imagine death from that.
“The leopard wrestled out and was able to claw, then bite the head of the snake.
“We heard a very loud crunching sound which was likely the leopard biting the skull of the python.
“The python may have died or been terribly injured because it continued to flop around slowly.
“It was probably the closest scrape with death that the leopard has ever been through.”
Mike, who has been photographing wildlife for seven years, said his safari group had heard of a leopard sighting in the area and rushed over to witness it.
The leopard wrestled out and was able to claw, then bite the head of the snake. I think what makes these images unique is simply how rare the sighting isMike WeltonWildlife Photographer
Mike said: “It was a thrill to see the power of a leopard in action while hunting the impala.
“We waited about 15 minutes, the impala was cautious and the leopard seemingly too patient. The distance grew between the two and I capped my lens thinking it was certainly over.
“We figured that the python came out to try for the impala, which brought the leopard right into the python’s position.
“It was a huge shock when we spotted it, we were very concerned when the action stopped and the python seemed to be winning.”
Baby shot four times including in the head after dad ‘used him as shield’
He added: “The leopard wrestled out and was able to claw, then bite the head of the snake.
“I think what makes these images unique is simply how rare the sighting is.
“Word travelled around the Mara and of 40 or so guides, who are out there all day every day, nobody has seen this happen before.”