This snake wasn’t monkeying around.
For the first time, scientists have witnessed and documented a boa constrictor strangling and swallowing a howler monkey in one piece. While the images and video are disturbing, the occurrence is important because there are so few reports of primates being eaten by predators, according to the study that details the event.
Erika Patricia Quintino, who co-wrote the study with Pontifical Catholic University’s Julio Cesar Bicca-Marques, was observing a group of Purus red howler monkeys in the western Brazilian Amazon when she caught the action, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Two of the female monkeys had ventured off into a tree where a 6 1/2-foot boa constrictor was lurking. The serpent slithered and surrounded one of the monkeys, coiling its body around her neck and torso. The second monkey tried to help by hitting the snake with her hands, but the boa just kept squeezing. The second monkey escaped to a nearby tree, while the victim died from cardiac arrest.
Then the snake started swallowing the monkey head-first.
The boa constrictor first strangled the monkey and then ate it head-first.
Some 38 minutes passed between the start of the strike and the beginning of the snake’s meal. It took the constrictor 76 minutes to ingest the monkey, the scientists wrote.
The average adult female howler monkey weighs about 13 pounds, according to LiveScience.
“This event indicates that even large-bodied (primates) are vulnerable to predation by large snakes and suggests that (boa constrictors) may be a more common predator of primates,” Bicca-Marques and Quintino wrote.
Boa constrictors have been known to hide in one place for more than a month, the study said. They usually stick to eating smaller prey, rodents and small birds.