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Nature | Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem

Watch Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 8pm on WMHT TV.

The honey badger has earned a reputation as the “tough guy” of the African savannah despite its small size. Sporting a bold black and white coat, this little carnivore swaggers through life equipped with big teeth, heavy claws, and strong jaws which provide some assistance when they seek out and antagonize larger beasts.  This well-armed and fearless creature never gives up and never gives in, but its most valuable weapon might just be one of the best brains in all the wild.                                                               

Zoologist Low de Vries has been fascinated by honey badgers since he was a child, and sets out to learn more about these feisty creatures whose behavior is still relatively unknown to science.  He sets out a camera trap at a perfect spot on the outskirts of Kruger National Park in an attempt to observe the normally elusive animals as they go in and out of a den, but also stakes out a rubbish dump at a safari lodge where they are well-known nightly scavengers.  While de Vries’ attempt to film them at the den ends in disappointment, the rubbish dump badgers provide a wealth of entertainment as they chase off porcupines, jackals, and even a large hyena who wander in hoping to share in the spoils. His cameras later follow the badgers into the lodge’s kitchen, where they proceed to ransack the place, even prying open the refrigerator to eat their fill before disappearing back into the night.

Wildlife conservationist Brian Jones, who rescues injured animals, has a soft spot for honey badgers despite the daily challenges he experiences with his pet badger Stoffel.  Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem chronicles Jones’ tales of Stoffel breaking into his house; attacking other animals at his rehabilitation center, no matter how big or small; and continually outwitting attempts to keep the clever mastermind from escaping a pen that is intended to keep him in. Matching wits and determination with Stoffel has kept Jones busy and full of admiration for more than 20 years.

Despite its name, the honey badger isn’t really a badger at all, but part of the weasel family. However, it does like honey and has become a scourge to beekeepers, shrugging off countless stings as it breaks into their hives. As the program details, beekeeper Guy Stubbs tries to devise a hive that will thwart them, but effective badger-proof hives prove difficult to design.  When Stubbs is ready to field test his latest effort, he enlists Stoffel and Hammy, a younger female badger, to try their luck, and can’t believe it when his hopes are dashed yet again.

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