It’s best not to get too close to a Mozambique spiting cobra. Known for their ability to spray potent toxins into the eyes of would-be attackers with astonishing accuracy, these snakes are responsible for the majority of serious bites to humans in Southern Africa. Luckily for Dave Du Toit – founder of the Vervet Monkey Foundation and the guy behind the camera in the video below – this snake was too busy trying to eat a fellow cobra to bother about the crowd of gawking humans.

(Be prepared for a somewhat incongruous soundtrack ...)

Du Toit filmed this remarkable snake tussle in South Africa’s Limpopo Province recently. “It seemed like a fight to the death but both snakes were of equal proportion so got locked in a death grip,” he explained to Storytrender.

With jaw clasped on to jaw, the slate-grey snakes were filmed rolling down a gravel road in a sort of serpentine stalemate. Concerned that a speeding motorist may have the final say in the battle, Du Toit decided to intervene and separated the writhing serpents before moving them away from the road (a move that we’d strongly recommend be left to the professionals – given how dangerous an agitated cobra can be).

“I thought it would be more appropriate for me to move them to safety,” Du Toit explained “[T]hen if they still felt the need to continue arguing they could do it in the safety of the bush where the chance of either one or both of them surviving was far greater.”

While it's not unusual for snakes to eat other snakes (cobras are particularly good at this), the behaviour is not witnessed often and Du Toit was lucky to catch this snake-on-snake violence on camera. Many venomous snakes – spitting cobras included – have immunity to their own particular blend of toxins, says Johan Marais of the African Snakebite Institute. This serves as a kind of failsafe in case they accidentally bite themselves in the confusion of a hunt, or receive a dose of venom during a rowdy mating ritual.

So it’s quite possible that both of these snakes were able to slither away from the duel despite taking a shot or two of potent cytotoxic venom. According to Marais, if the cobras were left to fight until the bitter end, one of the snakes would have eventually overpowered the other and enjoyed a cannibalistic snake snack.

Du Toit’s intervention may just have saved one snake’s life (and cost another a hard-earned meal).