21 November 2010

Honey badger (ratel) at South Luangwa

In Africa I was mostly happy to enjoy whatever wildlife I was lucky enough to see. Still, I did have a few animals I would have particularly loved to encounter (lions were NOT on that list), and at South Luangwa the subject came up in conversation. Jack and Annie, the Glaswegians I was fortunate enough to share my trip with, asked whether there was anything special I'd love to see. A honey badger, I said, and explained how they'd become part of my family's folklore — our byword for ferocity, irascibility and tenacity (some of those undoubtedly unfair on honey badgers). I didn't expect to see one, of course.

But only a few minutes after beginning our night drive, this is what the spotlight picked out. He (yes, it was obvious) trotted through the low scrub, paused on the edge of the track to look towards us, then crossed over and disappeared into the night. Achim had been guiding at South Luangwa for fourteen years. This, he told us, was only the second honey badger he'd seen in that time.

[13 May 2007, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS, ISO 1600, 1/100 at f4]

All content © 2010 Pete McGregor


Relatively Retiring said...

It can't be easy walking on claws like that, but they look efficient instruments for other work. What do they eat - apart from honey?

It's great that you saw him, but he no doubt saw you first.

Relatively Retiring said...

Oh, sorry - I should have used the link first. Eating a tortoise must be like eating an overcooked 'Cornish Pasty'.

butuki said...

You actually saw one? And PHOTOGRAPHED it?!?!?! Either you're immensely lucky or a dream magnet.

Zhoen said...

What claws.

Mentioned when we watched our snitched copy of QI last night. I don't think your description of them is unfair, from what I hear.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
The American badger is the state animal of Wisconsin where I am from. They are seldom seen there as well, living in sandy riverbanks where those sharp claws can dig out prey very quickly and efficiently. A few times hunting or fishing on the river deltas I would hear a very low growling which you knew meant business. This was a badger telling one to piss off somewhere else. Not to be trifled with in any way. What a great sight to see for you.

pohanginapete said...

RR, maybe the awkwardness of those claws explains the temperament? The overcooked pasty analogy's a good one — impenetrable but delicious inside ;^)

Miguel, often I can't believe how lucky I am, but this was exceptional.

Zhoen, I'd certainly have no intention of testing whether their reputation's deserved.

Robb, if I heard a badger growling at me, I'd take the hint — quickly.