The honey badger gained celebrity status in early 2011, something this solitary mammal would abhor. National Geographic produced a short video but from that came sassy and irreverent take offs that went viral.
However, there are good reasons for the notoriety. Here’s 11 of them.
- The honey badger is listed as the most fearless animal in the world in the Guinness Book of Records.
- Honey badgers appear to have immunity to snake, scorpion, and bee venom, likely built up over years of contact. Mothers protect cubs from catching poisonous snakes until they’ve developed skills and coordination to deal with them.
- They LOVE honey, hence their name. Sometimes they love it to death. Literally. While they may survive stings from a few bees, enough venom can be fatal. They’ve been chased away from bee hives, returned, and have been found dead inside.
- They dig their lifestyle—and are well adapted for it. They’re powerful, stocky, and their bowlegged front legs end in formidable fore claws that may grow to 40 mm.
- They’re adaptable. They can dig quickly to create a burrow to rest or hide in. And it can be in the ground, a tree trunk, or even an old termite mound.
- Honey badgers, or ratel, have a gray mantel separated by a longitudinal white stripe, over a jet black body. Their hide is very thick, rubbery, and hard for predator teeth to penetrate. It’s also loose enough that, if caught, they can wiggle around and get loose.
- Their similarity to skunks extends beyond appearances. A gland at the base of their tail contains a smelly liquid, designed to mark territory. But when push comes to shove, stinky contents can be released to fend off threats.
- They’re generally carnivores but eat almost anything—from insect larvae, beetles, and scorpions, to small crocodiles and pythons, and even larger mammals like young foxes, jackals, and antelope.
- Predators who threaten this fearless animal are lions, leopards, and man. Bee-keepers, poultry and sheep farmers hunt them to protect their livelihood. The badgers get caught in poor trapping and poisoning practices intended for jackal and caracal. They are also a source of traditional medicine. They are considered “near-threatened” from an extinction perspective in South Africa.
- They’re loners. They come together to mate but otherwise prefer a solitary lifestyle. Except for kits who stick with their moms until it’s time for them to be on their own.
- They’re slovenly. If their place gets too messy, they’ll move into someone else’s. It doesn’t even have to be the home of another honey badger. They’re quite comfortable moving into an aardvark den or the tunnels of foxes, mongooses, or springhares.
photo credit: Alex Keshavjee Chobe National Park, Botswana via photopin (license)