When you're sitting down to a meal of freshly caught Cape cobra, it's nice to have some peace and quiet. Unfortunately for this honey badger, dinner came with an audience: a pale chanting goshawk and a black-backed jackal.

Image: Peet van Schalkwyk

The four-in-one sighting was caught on camera by photographers Peet van Schalkwyk and Lynn van Heerden during a recent visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, an arid wildlife reserve that straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana in the Kalahari Desert.

It started off with just two species: a honey badger on the hunt with an opportunistic goshawk in tow. "Suddenly the honey badger started digging," Van Schalkwyk explained to Wild Card Magazine. "It dragged a huge Cape cobra from the hole. It took the snake behind a bush and consumed it. Then it came back and started digging again. It took out another Cape cobra. But this time the cobra bit him. It let go and the snake disappeared in the hole."

While a bite from the deadly Cape cobra should be lethal for an animal the size of a honey badger, these notoriously thick-skinned creatures rarely succumb to the venom. In fact, this one was spotted just three hours later, digging away as though nothing had happened!

So just how unusual is it to see a quartet of species like this? It's actually more common than you might think.

Honey badgers feast on a variety of prey, using their impressive claws to dig up everything from scorpions and moles to barking geckos and, of course, Cape cobras. Pale chanting goshawks have learnt the benefits of hanging out with a hunting honey badger, and will often perch nearby, hoping to swoop in and grab any morsels left behind. (Protip: if you're visiting the Kalahari and spot a group of low-perched goshawks, there's a good chance you'll find a honey badger scuffling around in the undergrowth below).

As for the Cape cobra, it might be a fearsome predator, but few animals can match up to the ferocity of a honey badger – and this was a losing round for the snake team. Endemic to southern Africa, the cobras are widely distributed, but they prefer to spend their time in drier, sandy areas. And while they're agile tree-climbers when hunting for eggs and young birds, they spend most of their time on the ground, where hungry honey badgers can get to them.

The fourth member of this quartet is a black-backed jackal. These opportunistic canids are quite capable of hunting their own prey, but they're not above scavenging for scraps. Honey badgers are messy eaters and often leave a little something behind for the birds and jackals.

For the most part, these interactions are amicable. When on the lookout for a meal, honey badgers pay little attention to their fellow foragers, but their tolerance does not seem to extend to species other than goshawks and jackals. According to Gus and Margie Mills, seasoned researchers who have spent many years in the Kalahari, there have been recorded instances of honey badgers chasing other predators like aardwolves and bat-eared foxes away from their foraging fields.

So we're unlikely to see any other species joining this carnivore party. We'll have to settle for four.