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Rare Encounter: Meerkat Family vs Cobra

Meerkat family surrounds a cobra.
Meerkat family surrounds a cobra. Image by BBC earth via YouTube

Cobras are armed with neurotoxic venom that can shut down entire respiratory systems. Meerkats, on the other hand, are mighty in numbers. Who wins in this showdown between a family of meerkats and a highly venomous cobra?

My Favorite Documentary: Meerkat Manor

One of my favorite childhood memories involves watching Meerkat Manor with my family. This documentary, spanning four seasons, first premiered in 2005. One can find the documentary on Amazon Prime video, I highly recommend you do so. So, when I came across the video captioned a Meerkat Family Surrounds Cobra. What Happens Next? It’s no surprise that I find myself rooting for the meerkats. They are, without a doubt, among my favorite animals.

Facts about Meerkats

Meerkat family
Meerkat family. Image by EcoPic via Depositphotos
Scientific nameSuricata suricatta
HabitatDeserts and grasslands of southern Africa
Diet Omnivores: insects, lizards, snakes, scorpions, spiders, and plants
ThreatsPredation by eagles, hawks and snakes
Social StructureHighly social, living live in gangs of up to 50 members
Guard duties“Sentry” duty: one meerkat stands guard to alert others of danger while the others forage for food.
LifespanIn the wild they live up to 10 years, but can live longer in captivity
Reproduction Females give birth to 2 to 5 pups

Facts about Cobras

Cape Cobra (Naja nivea), sticking out tongue, during the rainy season in green grass, Kalahari Desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa, Africa.
Cape Cobra (Naja nivea), sticking out tongue, during the rainy season in green grass, Kalahari Desert, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa, Africa. Image by imagebrokermicrostock via Depositphots
Scientific NameThe term “cobra” refers to several species, but the genus Naja is often associated with true cobras.
HabitatAfrica, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia.
DietCarnivores, primarily feeding on small mammals, birds, and other reptiles. Some species also eat eggs.
ThreatsHabitat destruction, human persecution due to fear or for their skin, and being hunted for traditional medicine and the pet trade.
VenomCobras are famous for their potent neurotoxic venom, which attacks the nervous system and can cause respiratory failure and death in prey and humans.
Unique BehaviorsCobras “stand up” by raising the front third of their bodies off the ground and spreading their neck ribs to form a hood when they are threatened.
LifespanDepending on the species, cobras can live up to 20 years in the wild.
ReproductionOviparous: laying 20-40 eggs, which they incubate and guard until they hatch.

Meerkat vs Cobras; Who wins?

YouTube video
“Meerkat Family Surrounds Cobra. What Happens Next? | BBC Earth”, Source: “YouTube”, Uploaded: “BBC Earth”

Meerkats share their habitat in southern Africa with several species of cobras. The Cape cobra (Naja nivea) is among the species known to prey on meerkats. However, meerkats are highly vigilant, and with their social bonds, cobras often shy away from challenging an entire family, as shown in the video. Cobras are opportunistic creatures and are often successful in their hunts when young meerkats are left vulnerable, when meerkats fall sick or when individuals are isolated.

Predator-prey interactions reversed

Interstingly, Meerkats also sometimes prey on cobras. The prey becomes the predator, and the predator becomes the prey. Meerkats are powerful in numbers, using teamwork to hunt they are capable of taking down some of the most venomous snake species. They generally target the head to quickly kill the snake and minimize the risk of being bitten.

Meerkat and cobra
Meerkat and cobra. Image by BBC Earth via YouTube

Meerkat venom immunity

These resilient creatures are more fascinating than you think. Research suggests that meerkats have evolved some level of immunity to venom of scorpions and possibly some snakes. This immunity may not extend to all types of snake venom, thus encounters still pose significant risks.


I had a lot of fun writing this short article on one of my favorite animals in the world. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Give the documentary meerkat manor a watch and maybe you will fall in love with them just as I did when I was 10 years old.

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