The honey badger is known as a fascinating, elusive and tenacious creature. It is not often that visitors to the bush come across these primarily nocturnal animals, but when they do there is always a story to tell.
The determination, fearlessness and general persistence of the honey badger usually means what honey badger wants, honey badger gets. The honey badger has incredible strength for a rather small animal, so when they go in search of food they tend to leave a trail of destruction behind them – after breaking into fridges, kitchens and even vehicles to get to the food they are after.
Encounters with these animals generally happen in the late evening and for those lucky enough to live and work in the bush a sighting of a honey badger is normally one to remember. Don Scott, owner of Tanda Tula Safari Camp in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, says,”I don’t know of a single bush dweller who doesn’t have a few honey badger stories up their sleeve.’”
Don and Nina Scott, who live on site at Tanda Tula, have had many interesting encounters with the honey badger. One such encounter was at 4am when one little fellow (and by little fellow I mean ferocious beast!) broke into their home in search of food (there is no fence surrounding Tanda Tula so it is completely open to the African bush). Don was woken by the sound of the dustbin being knocked over and, as there were children in the house, off he rushed, in his underpants, to assess the situation. There he encountered a rather frustrated honey badger who couldn’t find a way out. After a few fairly intense minutes, Nina had joined in the action, stationed in her polka dot pajamas armed with a frying pan on the kitchen counter, while Don eventually managed to successfully usher him out the sliding door. Just a normal night in the African bush!
Dale Jackson, general manager of Tanda Tula, has encountered these creatures many times, but his latest encounter was more than likely the most memorable. It occurred a few weeks ago when the river in front of camp was flowing due to plenty of recent rainfall. In the early hours of the morning Dale had gone out to check the river level and to ensure that all was okay in camp. He arrived in the lounge to see an assortment of bottles and glass lying everywhere, and so tried to piece everything together. While he went through the various possible scenarios and started cleaning up, he picked up a large cushion and it suddenly exploded into life and out erupted two honey badgers! Dale stood quietly gathering himself, in his skimpy boxer shorts, before ushering the two naughty fellows past the kitchen and into the bush.
Running a kitchen in the African bush while the elusive honey badger is around can be a little tricky. If you do not lock up the kitchen properly in the evening you will discover chaos in the morning. Ryan Mullet, Executive Chef at Tanda Tula, made this very mistake one evening. Ensuring all doors and fridges were locked he headed home for a nice quiet evening. But he made the mistake of leaving one window open only slightly. When Ryan arrived in the kitchen the following morning, chaos is exactly what he found. He found dustbins knocked over, broken plates, cutlery all over the place and even a destroyed fridge! The floor was covered in flour with footprints that belonged to our friend the honey badger. Two of the little fellows had found the open window and cleverly used a broomstick to climb up and through the window to have an absolute party in the kitchen. The biggest surprise was for the rangers the following morning when they arrived early in the kitchen to arrange coffee trays for guests, and found the honey badgers waiting eagerly to rush out the doors when they were opened, as that was their only way of escape!
Honey badgers are generally hard to photograph as chances are you will encounter them in the middle of the night while you are wearing nothing but underpants and in a haze of sleep. While Rob Baird was living in the Timbavati, one little fellow used to visit them almost every evening. Generally these nightly visits to their outdoor kitchen resulted in broken plates and glasses, knocked over dustbins and on one very special occasion, an upside-down stove. Rob had always wanted to capture a picture of this elusive creature but each time he encountered them he was on the stoep in his underpants, and a certain amount of fear had been instilled by the numerous tales of how the honey badger goes for the scrotum of larger animals when attacking. Therefore the choice between holding a camera and holding other important parts was a simple one…However, on the very last night of his year long stay in the bush their friend returned to say farewell and to gnaw on one of their bicycles outside. This was the perfect distraction that allowed Rob the opportunity to take a picture, with one hand on important parts of course.
Read more about these interesting honey badger diaries at Tanda Tula here.
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