The gruesome discovery unfolded inch by inch, as the villagers on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi gathered around a misshapen python and began to slice it open.

First appeared the bottom of one boot. Then a pair of legs.

In a widely shared nearly six-minute video published online by the Tribun Timur, bystanders yelp and point flashlights at the ever-widening snake carcass.

At last, the macabre revelation: Akbar, a 25-year-old man who had gone missing from Salubiro village on Sunday, apparently had been swallowed whole by the python, according to the Associated Press and local media reports.

“It seems he was attacked from behind because we found a wound on his back,” Junaedi, the secretary of Salubiro village in West Sulawesi province, told the AP. Many Indonesian people use only a single name.

Junaedi added that the villagers had begun searching for Akbar on Monday night, after the man never returned from a Sunday palm-oil harvest.

On Wednesday in Indonesia, the search party discovered “scattered palm oil fruit, a picking tool and a boot” – and not far away, a 23-foot-long reticulated python, the AP reported.

Police told BBC Indonesia they suspected the snake might have swallowed the man. A search party chased the python, killed it and cut it open, according to The New York Times.

Multiple videos and images that have emerged from the scene, taken from different angles, show the lifeless body of the man covered in what appeared to be the snake’s digestive juices.

The reticulated python is the world’s longest snake and among its heaviest, growing up to 30 feet, according to Emily Taylor, a professor of biological sciences at California Polytechnic State University and an officer in the nonprofit Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.

The size of the reticulated snake in the video indicates it was almost certainly a female, and without a doubt stronger than a person, she said.

A python’s diet usually consists of mammals, from rodents to primates. It kills its prey by constricting it to death, then ingests it whole.

It would be very difficult – though not impossible – for even a large python to swallow an adult human male; a human’s broad shoulders can present an obstacle for the snake’s jaws, Taylor said.

As for the video from Indonesia this week, Taylor said she couldn’t determine its authenticity. But the fact that the outcome was recorded on video, rather than documented only in still images, is noteworthy, she said. “The video doesn’t have any strong indicators that it is fake,” she said. “If it’s real, it’s really disappointing that someone lost their life.”

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