Leopards are at home in the treetops; they drape themselves over branches for an afternoon siesta, escape to the boughs when under threat, and regularly stash their kills in trees away from the reach of prowling scavengers.
But these big cats aren’t the only animals with arboreal inclinations, as one leopard in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park discovered when a black-necked spitting cobra turned up to ruin its zebra meal.
Filmed by Caitlin Davini on a safari with andBeyond, the short clip shows a disgruntled leopard facing off with a cobra. The snake appears to be investigating a zebra carcass that the cat had hauled into the treetops. After a brief confrontation in which it looks like the leopard gets a faceful of venom, the cat take a wide berth around the snake before leaping to the safety of an adjacent branch.
Black-necked spitting cobras are found throughout savannahs and semi-desert areas of sub-Saharan Africa. They are excellent climbers and are known to hide out in the crevices of tree trunks or slither along branches in search of food. Half-eaten zebra carcasses are not on the menu, though, and these snakes usually feast on rodents, birds, frogs, lizards and other snakes.
They are armed with a potent cytotoxic venom which, like other spitting cobras, they’re able to eject from their fangs when threatened – a behaviour that’s usually preceded by a flaring of the hood as a warning to any would-be attackers to keep their distance.
It’s unlikely that this snake had any genuine interest in the zebra carcass and was probably just disturbed from its resting spot when the leopard showed up with its lunch. The big cat clearly wasn’t about to tussle with a venom-spitting ‘anger rope’ and wisely leapt away likely to return to its meal once the cobra had moved off.