This week’s Flashback Friday takes me back to when I worked in the Okavango Delta at the exclusive Sanctuary Chiefs Camp.
The beauty of Chiefs Island is that the wildlife viewing is absolutely incredible, famously named the “Predator Capital” of Botswana. The sheer numbers of big cats, wild dogs and hyena were something to be marvelled at, all while interacting with the amazing array of herbivore species that call Chiefs home.
Nature certainly didn’t disappoint with what it always seemed on a daily basis that there were lions popping out of every bush and leopard out of every tree. It was truly a magical place to live and work.
The exciting part was waking up every day and not knowing what action or excitement would occur that day.
May 11th, 2011 would turn out to be one exciting day indeed. We had said goodbye to our group of guests midmorning, leaving the camp unusually empty for the afternoon and like “When in Rome, do what the Romans do” we headed out into the bush for some much needed R&R and of course in search of big cats.
Guides Rex and Ali had located the Boro pride that morning and had left them stationary close to Martial Eagle Pan so we had a good chance of relocating. The Boro pride at the time had 5 large lionesses, 8 sub adult cubs and two large males who we liked to call the Boro Boys.
There was an excitement about us as we headed towards Martial Eagle Pan, would we find the lions? and what would they be doing?
It was midmorning and the air was crisp, we had already seen impressive herds of elephant, buffalo and of course, the resident impala all huddled together to keep warm. It was just so nice to be out and about.
We rounded the corner towards Martial Eagle Pan, happily know by its resident Martial eagle nest atop a huge umbrella thorn tree. We made our way closer to where the lions were last seen. “No Lions.” Geg Binnie and I, our resident Helicopter pilot, jumped out the vehicle to investigate the numerous tracks left behind to get some sense of where the lions had gone. The only issues were that the tracks literally went everywhere and were all fresh. Something must have happened!, But what,? and where have the lions gone?
Scratching our heads, trying to make headway of where the lions had the head off too. We didn’t have to wait long, as we got our answer a couple of minutes later.
We were enjoying an Amarula Coffee in the bush, I was about to enjoy a homemade camp rusk when out of nowhere we heard loud contact calling and growls, and what I can only describe as a loud rattling/ rasping noise coming from about a kilometre down the road.
Without skipping a beat, we were back in the car and raced off to find out what was going on, following the continual growls and rattling, we drove deep into the bush. We soon came to an incredible scene. We found the Boro pride alright, but we weren’t quite expecting what we saw, there amongst the sub adult cubs was a sub adult honey badger fighting for his life and is the basis for our flashback Friday blog.
Once we manoeuvred the vehicle we could really find out what was going on, there in front of us was the entire Boro pride, the lionesses and the males were uninterested in what was going on, doing what lions do best , but the sub adult cubs were now playing with fire, literally as you just don’t mess with a Honey Badger or Ratel in Afrikaans. A fierce little creature and when people say dynamite comes in small packages, they would certainly be right when talking about a honey badger. The adult lions had the sense to leave the badger in peace but the overconfident youngsters decided it would be a good idea to take him on. “Big Mistake” as the lions tried to grab the badger, he would swing round in his skin and bite the lion on the nose or soft tissue, letting out a loud rattle/ rasp, with the corresponding loud uncertain painful growl from the young lions.
This incredibly went on for about 20 minutes, which must have been exhausting for the young badger, but all credit to him he battled hard inflicting a lot of pain on the lions. It was a fascinating scene, with 8 sub-adult lions battling 1 honey badger and I can tell you one thing, the badger was winning. The lions would move in and then back off, again and again with constant vocalisation.
The constant back and forth would turn deadly, as one of the lionesses, decided enough was enough, deciding the cubs game was now over. She circled around behind the badger and with one swift bite to the back of the badger’s head, the game was over. Once the badger was dead, the cubs moved in now, brave of course, started to play with the body, bringing us to the flashback Friday image.
Sadly the badger’s life was no more and the cubs would learn a valuable lesson, do not mess with a badger.
As much as I love lions, I was certainly rooting for the little badger, I do think if it was an adult badger, the situation would have been very different and I am sure the lions would have made a different decision altogether.
Once again an incredible sighting!