Road: 1, snake: 0. In this clip filmed in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, a snake appears to struggle for some time to slither across a road before eventually admitting defeat and retreating in the direction it came from. The puzzled tourists filming the short video can be heard discussing the odd behaviour.

So what’s really going on here? Snake handler Zane Barnard offers some insight via Facebook: “Snakes battle to gain traction on smooth surfaces, even more so if the tar has fine sand on it like this road seems to have.”

The snake probably would have made it across eventually, he explains, but a lack of traction means that the crossing would have taken a bit longer than usual. The sidewinder movement you can see in the video is the snake’s attempt to gain some purchase on the sandy tarmac. “If the surface is hot, the snake will try move across rapidly, but the scales will just slide across the smooth surface,” Barnard adds.

Local reptile expert Jason Arnold of Universal Reptiles offers a slightly different explanation, suggesting that it “almost seems like there's a steep gradient on the road surface, but it doesn't appear so in the video.” Arnold also notes a slight kink in the middle of the snake's body. “It is quite possible that a car had run over the snake and injured its spine, hampering normal muscle movements and contact with the ground,” he explains.

Both experts also point out that despite the video title, the snake is not a black mamba, but more likely either a boomslang, a grass/sand snake or a southern African snake known as a skaapsteker.

Commenters on YouTube have weighed in with their own opinions about the "moonwalking" behaviour. Some have suggested that the side-winding movement may help the snake shed unwanted skin or parasites, while others argue that the road surface might be too hot for the snake to cross over. What do you think? Tell us in the comments!