Monday, February 7, 2011

Creature Feature: Honey Badger.

Companies love naming soft drinks after swift, powerful animals, or at least using them as mascots: there's one with a cheetah on the can; I've already said my peace about Red Bull; Venom uses several vipers and elapids instead of flavor names; even Monster has started to use a neat-looking eagle for its imported flavors. There is, however, one animal that they have forgotten:


Meet the African Honey Badger, AKA the ratel or Mellivora capensis. Like real badgers, it is a mustelid, and is native to much of Africa, Saudi Arabia, and a good portion of India. Don't let the innocent-sounding name fool you. It is badass 24/7.

For starters, the ratel gets its cutesier other name from a single feeding habit: It breaks into beehives.  It is after honey and the gooey protein sacs called African honey bee larvae that are hidden deep inside the hive. Those claws tear easily through the underground hive, and even with the bees agitated, the ratel's thick hide cannot be stung. Period.

That cute just went out the window.

Being impervious to bee stings is one thing, but these are African bees. These are the bees that make Africanized honey bees (the hybrid between African and European honey bees) super-aggressive. With the ratel around, they really have to be. The ratel probably helped make them as mean as they are today.

Besides being more notorious for messing with bees than Winnie the Pooh, the ratel is a vicious predator.  The ratel will eat just about anything it can catch. Some of the most popular ratel catches are cobras and other venomous snakes (geez, nature film writers love dragon-slaying just as much as storytellers do). This mammal is not 100% immune to snake venom, but...

...two hours after being bitten by a puff adder, that ratel is just fine. It drank a little too much and recovered from its hangover. Time for another round! Mongooses properly eat cobras, too, but they are no match for the ratel; the ratel is practically a thrill-killer of snakes. Guinness called it the most fearless animal alive for a reason.

It gets worse: humans are supposed to be the most dominant species in the world, right? Well, this badger disagrees; spears and other human weapons have just as much trouble penetrating this badger's thick hide as bee stings do. Dogs do not do anything to ratels; their skin is too thick and too loose to be torn off. If a ratel gets into someone's chicken coop, those chickens are screwed. Period.

This thing eats snakes for breakfast. What chance do you have?

If Chuck Norris was an animal, he would totally be a ratel. No questions asked. That is just how invincible this creature is.

Tomorrow: Now I have to do a mushroom, don't I? 

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