It’s not often that we see honey badgers here. There are quite a few around, but their nocturnal habits make sightings hard to come by, and more often than not one is only able to view the creature(s) for less than a minute before they have scampered off into the undergrowth or disappeared down a burrow.
Rangers probably average about one sighting every four or five months – if that – and although a good run might see one chalk up a few more, we certainly don’t roam the property expecting to bump into honey badgers on a regular basis.
Only a few days ago, we were treated to not one but two encounters on the same day. Almost certainly it was with the same badger, as the sightings took place within a few hundred metres of each other.
The first sighting was in the morning, and came just as ranger Paul Danckwerts was leaving the Ntsevu pride and Birmingham males. He spotted the small black and white creature shuffling through some long grass, and as we were very close by, moved in to have a look. it was my guest’s first time to see one, so they were understandably thrilled. The honey badger was fairly relaxed and didn’t pay too much attention to the vehicles; it just scurried around, presumably looking for grubs or anything it could snack on. They move so quickly that it can be tough to stay with them, even in the open, so we opted to leave it be and headed back to the lions.
That evening, returning to camp along a road very close to the morning’s badger encounter, ranger Shaun D’Araujo and tracker Elmon Mhlongo suddenly caught two of the little animals in their spotlight! One was significantly smaller than the other so most likely a cub, and it seemed to get a fright at the vehicle’s sudden apparition so scurried back down a burrow. The other one meanwhile, presumably the little badger’s mother, remained unperturbed, and stayed out in the open as a couple of rangers came to view it.
The grass in that area is typically grazed short throughout the year by wildebeest and impalas, which allowed for unrivalled viewing as the badger scurried back and forth on the prowl for food. At one stage it came right up to our Land Rover, paused to look up at us, then simply carried on on its way.
I don’t know to what extent different honey badgers have different demeanours, but there surely has to be a wide range within the species. My last honey badger sighting was of a pair digging in a rhino midden. We spotted them from about 100m away, but as soon as we started the vehicle to get closer, they took fright and ran off.
The individual pictured above was unruffled to be in the spotlight. Let’s hope the cub that was seen grows up to be like its parent(s).