The Honey Badger

The Honey Badger

Pioneering project for honey badger research
Honey Badger carrying cub. Image courtesy: Begg

Conservation first as The City of Cape Town's Bio diversity Management Branch and the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve take on the task of rehabilitating an orphaned Honey Badger cub back into the wild.

The Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve, Back to Africa (Wildlife Vets), Cape Nature and Honey Badger experts Keith and Colleen Begg, are partners in this exciting project to rehabilitate and return a Honey Badger to the wild. In February 2006 a 3-month-old orphaned honey badger cub was rescued by farmers in Atlantis. It was found barely alive after it had been mauled by dogs. As not much is known about this threatened and secretive species during rehabilitation this project is a notable opportunity for us to learn more about this extraordinary creature.

Honey Badgers spend up to two years with their mothers learning just how to be a Honey Badger! The challenge of this rehabilitation project was to find a way to raise this animal while not letting it get imprinted by humans as it was taught to look after itself. The animal was placed in a secure enclosure under the care of Sandiso Kraai, a nature conservation student for the City of Cape Town, during 2006. Through unparalleled dedication and commitment, Sandiso was able to ensure that the badger survived and grew big and strong, yet maintaining its healthy fear of humans. Sandiso has done such a good job he won a prize from the Cape Technikon for his research project on the rehabilitation of the Honey Badger.

The real challenge now is to let the badger roam free and to asses how effectively he will be able to find food and look after himself. It is also anyone's guess on what he will do once released! Before being released, the badger will be implanted with a transmitter in order to enable conservation staff to track his progress. This is essential in order to assess whether the badger has been successfully rehabilitated and that he has rejoined the wild population. The number of Honey Badgers within the City of Cape Town is close to critical levels which make the genetics of each individual Honey Badger extremely valuable.

Although it sounds sweet the Honey Badger is a ferocious carnivore greatly skilled in hunting. Its diet consists of small rodents, snakes; rabbit, tortoises and various invertebrates. Honey Badgers are wonderful generalists not turning their noses up at anything edible! Yet rightly so the reference to its love of honey is what gets the Honey Badger into fatal trouble with bee keepers and farmers. It is now threatened with extinction due to indiscriminate poisoning, death by gun or dog and the extremely cruel gin trapping still practiced by farmers in the hope of deterring their penchant for honey. There are however many effective interventions which result in the "badger proofing" of bee hives. These methods need to be implemented to ensure that the badgers remain safe and that the farmers don't suffer economic losses.

Some little known facts about the honey badger:

Is this yet another example of the threatened extinction of a remarkable animal due to man's overwhelmingly selfish need to control all food sources and not share? Perhaps this is the lesson we can learn from these creatures and as such offer our support in getting to know them better.

To adopt the Honey Badger and make a contribution to this project please contact:

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