Like humans, the animal kingdom has an A list of successful screen stars and wildlife documentaries have a tendency to group these feral thespians into three distinct roles. ‘The Good’: Meerkats, rabbits and the like whose appearance and lifestyle equal fun for all the family. ‘The Bad’: Sharks, tigers and other predators who are simultaneously enigmatic and dangerous. And ‘The Ugly’: Box jellyfish, snakes and lethal insects-things that look unpleasant and also cause pain. This week however, footage emerges of a creature that chews up and spits out the hierarchy of animal TV and anything else that crosses its path, the deceptively named “Honey Badger.” Which looks like something you might buy in pet shop and give to children, but turns out to be one of the most violent and determined creatures ever to scuttle across the face of the earth.
According to the Guinness Book Of Records the Honey Badger is “the fiercest creature on the planet,” an animal whose habitat (African and Asian deserts) and behaviour (nocturnal mass-murderer) make it both tricky and somewhat unappealing to film. Thanks to the determined efforts of two filmmakers the absence of this devastating fur ball from our screens is at and end. But be warned, Snake Killers: Honey Badgers Of The Kalahari is nature as Quentin Tarantino might have imagined it. Nothing in the badger’s world-not even the badgers themselves-are safe from its remarkable ability to create havoc and cause harm.
Like a meter long skunk with the brain of a shark the Honey Badger’s metabolism compels it to eat constantly and live on the run. Its diet is admirably inclusive ranging from insects to its own young. If an animal is too big to eat then the badger will fight it anyway, indeed it is this almost supernatural tenacity that compels you respect it, as well as yielding some of the most spectacular sequences in the film.
Five foot long cobra sleeping in the top of tree? No problem, the badger scoots up and bites its head off (they eat all their prey head first-purely for dramatic effect it seems to me.) Lethal puff adder chomping away on a gerbil? The badger rips the gerbil out of the snake’s mouth then kills the snake and eats that as well. Picturesque burrow of baby desert foxes? Don’t make me spell it out, but put it this way, they don’t last long.
When an ailing badger is attacked by a full size leopard it takes the leopard over an hour to finish it off. When one is bitten in the face by a snake that can kill a man, it just lies down for a while and sleeps it off. When adult badgers meet eat other they fight like angry drunks. The only thing that can lay this enigma low is a hive of African bees (these things love honey) though it takes over a hundred stings before the badger even slows down. Word is that when they do attack primates they like to start the fighting with a vicious bit to the groin. So should you find yourself in the Kalahari don’t bring honey and sleep with one eye open. By the looks of this you’d have a job to stop one, even if you had a gun.