Does a Viral Picture Show a Giant Snake That Swallowed a Woman in South Africa?

Message that circulates via  social media claims that a giant snake swallowed a woman near Durban North, South Africa in June 2013. The message includes a photograph of a large python and claims that the picture was taken by Linda Laina Nyatoro, a South African reporter who witnessed the incident.

Brief Analysis:
The claims in the message are untrue. The very same picture has been circulating in other contexts since at least September, 2012. Linda Laina Nyatoro did post the image on her Facebook page in June 2013, but states in comments that she did not witness the attack as claimed in the message. Earlier versions variously claim that the snake in the picture swallowed a drunken man asleep by a roadway, a man in Jakarta, Indonesia after floods hit the region, and a snake expert that was tending to the snake. None of these variants to the story have been confirmed by any credible news reports. While large snakes such as rock pythons have killed humans, confirmed and documented cases of such snakes actually swallowing adult humans are very rare.

Giant Snake Swallows woman in South Africa (See Photo June 12, 2013 Linda Laina Nyatoro, a South African reporter witnessed the incident and sent this picture. The giant snake swallowed a woman two days ago, near Durban North, South Africa.Giant Snake

Detailed Analysis:
This viral social media message features a picture of a large snake that, going by its appearance, has recently consumed a sizable meal. The message claims that the snake swallowed a woman near Durban North, South Africa in early June 2013. According to the message, the incident was witnessed by a South African reporter named Linda Laina Nyatoro and it was this reporter who first sent out the photograph.

However, the claims in the message are false. The same image has appeared in entirely different contexts from at least September 2012. Moreover, while Linda Laina Nyatoro did post the image and story via Facebook on June 11, 2013, she did not claim to be a witness to the supposed incident. She states in the comment thread for the image that she was not present during the alleged attack. She claims that one of her colleagues was there when the woman’s body was removed from the snake. However, she does not cite any references for her story. And I could find no credible reports about a snake related fatality like the one described occurring in Durban during 2013. Back in 2002, a ten year old Durban boy was reportedly killed and swallowed by a rock python while collecting fruit. However, the above image is in no way connected to the 2002 fatality.

And, as noted, the same picture has appeared elsewhere online with a whole series of very different cover stories. One version, posted to Facebook in September 2012, claims that the picture shows a snake that swallowed a drunken man who fell asleep on the street. Later reports that began appearing in January 2013, claim that the picture was taken in Jakarta, Indonesia and depicts a snake that consumed a man during flooding in the region. Yet another version, posted in March 2013, claims that the ailing snake was rescued from a game reserve, but ate the expert that was riding with it in the back of a van on the way to a lab for treatment. But, not one of these are supported by any credible news or police reports. Some of the Indonesian versions tack on a second, grisly image purportedly depicting the snake’s unfortunate victim after he was removed from the reptile’s innards. But, there is no evidence to support the claim that the pictured body was related to the pictured snake.

An alternative variant of the message claims that the snake was caught in Guyana, but makes no reference at all to someone being swallowed.

While people have certainly been killed by large pythons, credible and substantiated reports about adult humans actually being swallowed whole are very rare. Exactly where and when the above image was snapped – and what kind of meal the snake in the picture last consumed – remains unclear. But, given that the image has been online since at least September 2012 and possibly even earlier, it IS clear that it does not depict a snake that swallowed a woman in South Africa in June 2013.

Last updated: February 3, 2017
First published: June 19, 2013
By Brett M. Christensen
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