1. Sweet as honey The honey badger is part of the weasel family and is related to skunks, otters and ferrets. His proper name is ‘ratel’, but he gets the common name honey badger from what seems to be his favourite food: honey. Yet what the animal is actually looking to eat are the bee larvae found in the honey.
2. Highly intelligent Honey badgers are very clever and one of only a few species of animal who is capable of using tools. They have been seen rolling logs to places where they need a ‘ladder’ to get to prey or over an obstacle. A honey badger in captivity once even used a rake to help him escape over a fence.
3. Best friends The greater honeyguide, a bird related to the woodpecker, is the honey badger’s best friend. Some believe the bird leads the animal to beehives where he will happily break open a hive and devour the honey and larvae. After he leaves, the honeyguide can feast on the beeswax.
4. Trotting along This animal walks with a jog-trot, that is, a steady trot like a horse. Honey badgers are solitary foragers and generally hunt alone. They find food by walking slowly while continuously sniffing mouse and small reptile holes and scent trails.
5. The meanest animal in the world Honey badgers are generalist carnivores with an extremely wide taste in food. More than 60 species of prey were recorded in the southern Kalahari alone. Badgers eat a variety of smaller foods like insect larvae, beetles, scorpions, lizards, rodents and birds. They will also catch larger reptiles like leguaans, crocodiles (1m) and pythons (3m) and include the highly venomous adders, cobras and black mamba in their diet. Larger mammals like the springhare, polecat and particularly juvenile foxes, jackals, antelope and wild cats are also caught.
6. Immune to venom? Honey badgers may develop immunity (resistance) over their lifetime after numerous small injections of venom from bees, scorpions and snakes. A case in point is a badger who was bitten on the cheek by a puff-adder which caused the site to become largely swollen. However, the badger survived and was active again five hours later.
7. Believe it or not! The honey badger is actually listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘world’s most fearless creature’. This makes sense since the honey badger does not know the meaning of fear and will attack anything, no matter how big or strong the opposition might be. You just have to love that type of ferocity.
8. Shape and size The honey badger has a fairly long body, but is distinctly thick-set and broad across the back. They have short and sturdy legs, with five toes on each foot. The feet are armed with very strongclaws, which are short on the hind legs and remarkably long on the forelimbs. The largest terrestrial mustelids in Africa, adults measure 23 to 28cm in shoulder height and 55 to 77cm in body length, with the tail adding another 12 to 30cm. Males weigh 9 to 16kg while females weigh 5 to 10kg on average.
9. Growls and grunts Honey badgers can grunt, squeak, hiss and whine, and are known for their deep and ominous growl.
10. Home sweet home Honey badgers dig burrows up to 3m long and up to 1.5m deep. A single tunnel ends in a chamber, which is usually bare, where the honey badger rests. But when it comes to making a home, honey badgers aren’t afraid to use what’s already available to them: rock crevices and holes under tree roots, old termite mounds, or the dens of other animals such as aardvarks.