The Animal With No Fear
Ask someone which animal they fear most on a continent populated by lions, leopards and venomous snakes, and it's unlikely they'll say an ill-tempered weasel. But that's just because they haven't heard of the honey badger.
The name hardly strikes fear into the heart, but bear in mind that it's called the honey badger because it goes after honey. Going after honey means getting stung by hundreds of angry bees. Picture a creature who doesn't care about getting stung by hundreds of bees, and you have the honey badger.
Size matters in the wild. Small creatures generally avoid taking on larger creatures by themselves. But the honey badger didn't get that memo.
Despite being about as big as a small to medium-sized dog, the honey badger will happily pick a fight with a pack of hyenas, or chase off a lion cub and steal its food. James Stevenson-Hamilton, the first game warden of the Kruger National Park, reported seeing a honey badger attacking a wildebeest by targeting its scrotum.
As former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson said: "The honey badger does not kill you to eat you. It tears off your testicles." Here are five facts about this fascinating and fearless animal.
1. They Eat Snakes
The honey badger has no issue with taking on and eating a venomous snake. It is biologically resistant to toxins that would be fatal to a human
Famous footage shows a honey badger getting into a scrape with a king cobra. The honey badger wins the fight, but not before being bitten by the snake. While feasting on the snake, it passes out from the venom, only to wake up some time later and continue its meal as if nothing had happened.
2. They Kick Up a Stink
The honey badger has a gland at the base of its tail that can unleash a putrid stench. The creature does so mainly to mark territory, but if threatened, will not hesitate to drop a devastating stink bomb.
Not only does this function as a defence mechanism, but it also represents the honey badger's general attitude towards life.
3. They Use Tools
The honey badger may not seem the subtle type. But it's actually one of the few non-primates capable of using tools.
Documentary footage shows a honey badger retrieving a trapped kingfisher from the ceiling by pushing a log under it and using that as a step ladder.
Honey badgers have also been recorded working together to escape an enclosure. BBC footage shows them scaling walls and fences and working in tandem to unlock bolts.
The South African conservationist supervising the enclosure keeps reinforcing it to prevent escape, but the honey badgers keep finding new ways to obtain freedom, even using a rake to effectively pole vault over the wall at one point.
4. They Are Expert Diggers
The honey badger's claws are effective tools in themselves, enabling them to dig burrows as deep as 1.5 meters.
This is their primary method of acquiring food. Being an omnivore, the honey badger can use its claws to forage for vegetables, move rocks to uncover insects or extract rodents from burrows.
Their digging skills come in handy when invading beehives. The honey badger craves not just the honey but the bee larvae within, which requires it to dig deep into the hive, all while being assaulted by a swarm of bees.
5. They Are Thick Skinned
The thickness of the honey badger's skin isn't so far off from that of an elephant or rhino. Hence why hundreds of bee stings do little to dissuade it from aggressively digging for honey.
The skin is so tough that even dog bites are unable to penetrate it. The skin is also loose, allowing the honey badger to be quite acrobatic. It can easily twist to escape a predator's grip and move through tight spaces.
Of course, the honey badger is thick-skinned in the metaphorical sense as well. The ever-persistent animal can win a fight simply by outlasting rather than overpowering its foe.
Agile, tough and cunning; the honey badger has shown that it is a force to be reckoned with, even for creatures five times its size.
More Facts About Honey Badgers
- Common name: Honey badger
- Scientific name: Mellivora capensis
- Type: Mammal
- Diet: Omnivore
- Average lifespan in the wild: Up to 7 years
- Size: 9–11 inches high at the shoulder
- Weight: 13–30 pounds
- Habitat: Sub-Saharan Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and western Asia
The 2002 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records named the honey badger the most fearless animal in the world.
Honey badgers are polygamous and mate all year round. They do not form parental couplings; only female honey badgers raise young, usually for a period of just over a year. They keep the cubs safe in burrows and carry them in their mouth when they go foraging.
The Greatest Threat to Honey Badgers
Honey badgers are under threat from farmers and beekeepers, who consider them pests. Environmentally conscious organisations source honey from beekeepers who avoid killing honey badgers (they simply place their beehives on elevated platforms so the badgers can't reach them). Such honey will be labelled as badger-friendly.
Honey badgers are also under threat from people who hunt them for use in traditional medicine, believing the fearlessness of the honey badger can be transferred through trinkets harvested from its corpse.
In 2002, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessed and listed the honey badger as Near Threatened (NT) due to the increased habitat loss.
- Lerato Molekoa l SANBI (South African National Biodiversity Institute)
- Facts About Honey Badgers l National Geographic
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.