For a bunch of first timers to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a snake crossing the road is a noteworthy event. But what happened after the snake crossed the road? Clue: a remarkable sighting…

Wild Card traveller Andre Barnes and friends were exploring the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park early one morning when they spotted a snake on the move. “We were staying at the Kalahari Tented Camp and on the way to the first water hole, came upon a snake making its way across the road. We naturally stopped the vehicle and took some pictures,” says Andre.

As the snake, a Cape cobra, reached the other side of the road, it suddenly lifted its head to scan the surrounds. Judging by the spread of its hood, the snake had reason to be concerned…

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Pictures by Andre Barnes

From the bushes, an African wild cat appeared. “This was the first time we had ever seen a wild cat! It quickly spotted the snake and relentlessly tried to get behind the cobra…”

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But the snake was having none of it. “Before long, the cobra’s patience grew thin and it sent a clear message to the cat to hit the road. The cat retreated and got distracted by a ground squirrel. With the cat chasing after the squirrel, the cobra pulled a Houdini and slithered away to greener pastures.”

Did you know? Cape cobras vary in colour and can be dark brown or even black. This one was golden yellow, which made for striking pictures.

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When the cat returned for round two, there was no snake in sight, “leaving the cat very confused”. But did curiosity kill the cat? “Both cat and snake left unscathed, almost treating each other with some sort of mutual respect. We cannot wait to return to the Kgalagadi.”

An expert’s thoughts

Marna Herbst, scientist at SANParks Scientific Services, conducted extensive research on the Kalahari’s African wild cats as part of her PhD. She reckons an attack from either side is unlikely. “I have seen cats catching small grass snakes and eating them; in this case however, I do not think the cat was interested in the Cape cobra as a prey species. Cats are very curious and I think the cat went closer to inspect.

“The snake sensed an approaching predator, lifted its head, probably hissed, and the cat retreated. I don’t think the cat would have attacked the snake at all – especially not a Cape cobra of that size.”

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