Our game driver spotted this bowlegged guy trotting down the road. He was coming straight for us, so with heart-thumping anticipation, it looked like he would walk right past us. But, dang, he eventually stopped, looked our way, sniffed the air, then turned on a dime and made a beeline for the bush where a couple of young lions were napping. The lions looked up and let him pass without so much as a muffled roar.
This badass is a Honey Badger, an animal with a reputation so fierce even lions avoid them because these little warriors go straight for the testicles. Faces and eyes are also fair game, their long claws and sharp teeth can shred skin to the bone. During my seven years in South Africa, this was only my second encounter with a Honey Badger; the first had only happened days before in The Kruger.
My friend and I were sitting around a campfire one evening. Wine flowed, and the flames of the fire created a warm, safe feeling. Well, safe(ish) because the baboons that surrounded us were determined to steal our food. We were chatting about who knows what when a Honey Badger crossed in front of our shoeless feet like he owned the place. We froze, afraid to move lest our faces fall victim to his notorious bad attitude.
But, he didn’t seem to give a hoot about us, headed straight for the garbage, lifted up the cover, took a sniff, sat up on the edge, and looked at us as if to say, “What the heck, where’s the leftovers.” Then we heard something behind us, and holy cow, another Honey Badger plodded on by, looked at his buddy, who, I swear, shook his head in disgust before they scampered off to the next campsite.
Honey Badgers are misunderstood. They are wicked smart, can make tools, can slither out of their skin to escape a predator, and can hypnotize honeybees with their stinky anal spray and steal the honey with nary a sting. And humans are absolutely meaningless to them in their quest for survival.
The Honey Badger is definitely an animal worthy of respect!
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