The most fearless animal in the world.
This title is not given to just any animal, especially when it is the Guinness World Records books. So you know whatever animal it is, it’s going to be pretty amazing. And yet this fearless animal is just under a meter long (from tail to nose), weighs only around 10kg and is pretty cute! (Well I think so)
The honey badger (Mellivora capensis) is in the Mustelid family which includes otters, weasels and wolverines (a group of pretty aggressive animals). It is not closely related to the European badger, and was only called so because of the grey stripe from its head to its tail. It has a large distribution through most of mid and southern Africa, but also through the Middle East and India. It lives in savannahs and forests, not venturing into deserts and is mostly nocturnal.
But what makes this animal so fearless? Well it’s very aggressive and will kill poisonous snakes and even chase away lions. It also has loose and thick skin getting to about 6mm around the neck. So if a lion or other big predator grabs onto it, the badger can turn around and attack its offender.
It also has a pretty gruesome way of taking down larger prey, and it does this by attacking the prey’s scrotum. As there are large blood vessels in that region, the prey can run off, but will eventually die from blood loss. The badger has a great sense of smell so it can just follow the trail until it finds the body.
They’re called ‘honey’ badgers because they love raiding hives when they can find them. The badger is aided in finding hives by the greater honey-guide bird (Indicator indicator), which calls continuously and flies from trees until they get to the hive. When the badger is done the bird will eat the let-overs and is the only bird that can digest wax. Badgers aren’t immune to bee stings, so how do they raid the nest? Well they have anal glands that are similar to a skunk, and apparently just as potent. So when they find a hive, they break it open, put their posterior to it and… well you get the idea. It’s apparently such a horrible smell that it either kills the bees or stuns them, and the badger can eat all the honey it wants without being swarmed.
This is defiantly one fearsome little creature, and I was lucky to have a rare encounter with one in Botswana last month. Though its population is defined as being of least concern by the IUCN red list, its population is declining. It clashes with Arborist’s (leaving smelly hives in their wake) and the expansion of the human population makes the future of this feisty little critter uncertain.
There is a (somewhat) amusing video about the honey badger on youtube that shows some of it’s fearless behaviour.
- Roodt, V. (2011) Mammals of Botswana and surrounding areas. Veronica Roodt Publications, South Africa.
- Vanderharr JM & Hwang YT (2003) Mammalian Species: Mellivora capensis, American Society of Mammalogists 721, 1-8, <http://www.science.smith.edu/msi/pdf/721_Mellivora_capensis.pdf>