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Another great sighting in the Okavango Delta

On a recent Safari, I was privileged to privately guide a family from the United States to 3 different camps in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Linyanti Swamps.

One of the many highlights (as there often are more than just one when travelling through this spectacular wilderness) came  on our last morning at our second camp in the Okavango, Chitabe Lediba.

The Chitabe concession is well known for its abundant wildlife and quality sightings due to very low tourist densities and quality local guides who are not only skilled at locating special sightings, but also are just as enthusiastic as their guests to enjoy the experience by spending quality time with the animals, observing their behaviour.

On this particular morning, we had already encounted Elephants, Giraffe, Buffalo and a host of plains game. After stopping for our mandatory cup of caffeine to help rid of us of any wariness that may have lingered from our 5 am wake up call, our local guide received news of a pride of 4 lions that had been seen a short distance from where we were.

On approaching the area where the lions had been seen, a pungent aroma filled the air. This stench could be little else than the fumigating scent which Honey Badgers (Mellivora capensis) often secrete from the anal-sac in self-defence.

About 100 meters further we came across the pride, which consisted of a Lioness and her sub-adult Cubs who were intently focussed on their catch which had by now been subdued. An adult Honey Badger was the quarry and the sub-adults were busy “mock killing” it with bites to the nape of the neck and skull.

Between bouts of pouncing on the Badger, the Lionesses would occasionally pause and curl up their lips in a grimace, just as they do when testing another’s scent. They would then toss the carcass around, in turns, before eventually losing interest and retiring to a flooded channel to quench their thirst and rest up for the remains of the morning.

As Lions and Honey Badgers are predominantly active at night, one rarely gets an opportunity to observe inter-action between these two species, but in my personal experience, I have only ever seen these two species confront each other on a handful of occasions and in all of these there was no physical contact but rather a mutual backing off by both species, even on one occasion, in the Sabi Sands, where a pride of Lions backing down completely to allow a Honey Badger to feed on a Zebra carcass for a few minutes while the pride watched from the nearby shade. This incident perhaps bears testimony to the regard that other carnivores hold the ferocious behaviour which Honey Badger (Ratels) have become so famous for.

It is not every day one gets to witness unique animal behaviour, but it is something that keeps us as safari guides out there searching, observing and admiring.

 

Text and Images: Chris Stamper

 

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