Fierce Honey Badgers
In South Africa, the idiom “tough as nails” doesn’t cut it. To assert a rough-and-ready attitude, the phrase is “as tough as a ratel.” These fearless and persistent creatures are recorded attacking cobras, shredding into beehives amidst the stinging swarm, and even chasing lions off their kills. All the more amazing when you consider this brashness is bottled inside a mere 25-pound creature with the deceptively friendly nickname of African honey badger. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is now one of only four American zoos and the only zoo in the SE USA where you can see this extraordinary species.
Fearless and persistent perfectly describes the ratel. They will rip wooden planks from hen houses and dig under walls to get a meal. Even the stings of bees do not deter them from tearing into beehives with their immense claws. Fortunately, their thick skin and dense hair protects them from many stings. (It is that taste for honey that earned them the “honey badger” name.)
Their diet also includes scorpions, rodents, berries, roots, and tortoises. In a still unknown process, ratels survive envenomation by cobras, puff adders, and other deadly snakes. After killing the snake, the bitten ratel drops and remains still as if dead, but eventually rises from its toxic stupor to eat its would be assassin.
Although commonly associated with Africa, the honey badger ranges all the way to India. When cornered, ratels will savagely attack and predators have learned to leave them alone. Even the South African army named their armored infantry fighting vehicle the ratel in honor of their toughness.
Come see these three furry and fabulous badgers and enjoy the Meet the Keeper Series presentation.