Honey Badger [Mellivora capensis]
Honey Badgers are about 250 mm high at the shoulders and weigh 12 Kg. Their coats have a broad and course saddle of grey hair running from above the eyes to the base of their tail, which contrasts starkly with their black underparts. They have a low slung body, with tiny ears and stout legs, and have massive claws. The latter is an adaptation for digging and spending time under ground, but are also formidable weapons. It is primarily terrestrial but can climb, especially when attracted by honey. It travels by a jog-trot but is tireless and trails its prey until the prey is run to the ground.
A carnivore which feeds on a variety of small animals, scorpions and mice. They also take larger items like springhares and snakes. They may scavenge small antelope kills from other carnivores. The extent to which they eat honey is unknown. They are alleged to be led to beehives by the honey guide bird. The latter is supposed to be rewarded by the Honey Badger by scraps of honeycomb.
The Honey Badger is thought to breed all year round, with females thought to have two young per litter. Research in the southern Kalahari showed that cubs stayed with their mothers for a minimum of 14 months, before becoming independent. This is in marked contrast to the Eurasian Badger which may become independent at 3 months.
James Stevenson-Hamilton, the first game warden in the Kruger National Park, recorded two incidents in the park in which a Honey Badger attacked a Wildebeest and a Waterbuck, respectively by going for the scrotum. As a result of the wounds inflicted both animals died. There is no doubt that this animal is a formidable and brave fighter. Honey Badgers are solitary foragers and foraging behaviour is characterised by a slow winding walk with continuous smelling of rodent and small reptile holes and scent trails. In the southern Kalahari, Honey Badgers switch from being predominantly nocturnal in summer and diurnal in Winter. However, in areas where honey badgers are affected by human activities they are usually nocturnal.
Honey Badgers have a wide habitat tolerance and are found in a wide variety of environmental conditions, except for extreme deserts and areas receiving more than 2000 mm of rain per year.
Where they are found
Widely distributed throughout South Africa, but absent from the north-west coastal areas.
Adults are frequently killed by Leopard and Lion. Their black and white colouration is thought to provide a warning to other predators of their strength and tenacity.
Honey Badgers do appear to have some immunity to snake venoms. A Honey Badger bitten on the face by the highly cytotoxic pufadder showed signs of severe pain but recovered fully within five hours. This immunity may develop over the life time of the honey badgers due to regular contact with small amounts of venom in snakes, scorpions and bees. Young cubs are prevented from catching poisonous snakes by their mothers until they have the necessary skills and coordination. While Honey Badgers also appear to have some immunity to bee stings, they have been found stung to death in hives, particularly in commercial apiaries.
Find out more information on the African Honeybadger.