A Small Package of Dynamite

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The honey badger has earned a reputation as the most fearless creature alive, according to the Guinness book of world records, despite its size.

Although they weigh in at a maximum of about 16kg, they are seldom tackled by predators, and even the mighty lion gives this tough little character a wide berth. When cornered, the honey badger will attack with tooth and claw, outlasting much larger animals in a confrontation. Honey badgers have even been known to set upon horses, cattle and buffalo which accidentally intrude on their burrows.

The thick skin of the honeybadger, which is 6mm thick in the neck areas, is impervious to porcupine quills, bee stings and bites. Their pelts are loose on their bodies, allowing them great manoeuvrability during combat, and their short thick tails, small eyes and tiny ears are yet another defensive adaptation.

Short powerful legs ending in thick pads and very strong claws, of up to 4 cm I length, add to their armoury, and their high intelligence is an added bonus. In both captivity and in the wild, honey badgers have been observed using tools, such as twigs and mud, to reach prey or escape from incarceration.

The only time a honey badger is vulnerable is when they are first born and the only time that they socialise with other creatures is during mating, which can occur at any time of the year in Southern Africa.

Very little is known about the intricacies of honey badger parenting, except that gestation is about six months long and that the cubs are born blind. The mother cares for the cubs until they are weaned and they usually stay in her presence for about 14 months.

Honey badgers are skilled diggers and live in self-dug holes, placed throughout their territory, consisting simply of an entrance and a nesting chamber. They also make use of abandoned aardvark or warthog holes.

As their name suggests, honey badgers love honey, and will seek out beehives in order to get to it – their natural defences making this an easy task. There is no evidence that the honeyguide does in fact lead the badger to honey but this could simply be because the honey badger is not inclined to take instructions from anybody. It makes sense that they would both be in the vicinity of any bee hives in the vicinity, and the bird does benefit from the badger's hive raids.

When they are not terrorising the neighbourhood bees, honey badgers survive on frogs, tortoises, insects, rodents, lizards, eggs, birds and snakes, with a side of berries, roots and bulbs.

Unfortunately, outside of the reserves, they are partial to raiding chicken coops, and this has led them into conflict with man and earned them a place on the endangered species list in South Africa.


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Saturday, 15 December 2018