Fight to the end

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While in the Kgala­gadi Trans­fron­tier Park re­cently, we sat at Tierkop wa­ter­hole next to the lower dune road and watched two sec­re­tary­birds look­ing for lunch in the grass. Sud­denly, one jumped into the air, flapped its wings, kicked its feet and started peck­ing for all it was worth. It had got hold of what looked like a Cape co­bra. It even­tu­ally swal­lowed the rep­tile head first. The snake was still alive while it was be­ing swal­lowed. Its tail wrig­gled as if try­ing to find an­chor some­where. With about half a me­tre of snake not yet gone, the tail even­tu­ally wrapped around the neck of the sec­re­tary­bird. That was when the fight started in earnest… The bird strug­gled as the tail wrapped around a sec­ond time. It jumped, kicked and pecked, stag­ger­ing in the grass and drop­ping its head. The snake seemed to be win­ning. Its grip seemed to tighten and the bird be­came slower and weaker. But then the ta­bles turned. Af­ter chok­ing the bird for about 10 min­utes, the snake’s tail fi­nally went limp and dis­ap­peared into the bird’s gul­let. LYNETTE ROEST, Som­er­set West

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