Going on a scorpion hunt

Early one morning in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve, I came across this male honey badger. It was October and the very end of the dry season, which meant that the soil was baked hard and dry, but this didn’t seem to bother the badger.

Honey Badger

He walked with purpose, swinging his head this way and that, smelling and sniffing as he went. Suddenly, he stopped and pushed his nose into a hole in the sand, keeping it there for a number of seconds. Then he exploded into action with an arcing pounce and ripped into the ground with his fearsome front claws.

He spun his rear end around in the air, digging furiously while hurling chunks of dirt and sand away from the hole.

Honey Badger

The excavation became so deep that the badger was forced to lie with his belly flat on the ground and his back bowed, so that he could push his front legs deeper into the hole.

Honey Badger

Suddenly, he pulled out a scorpion, bit off its tail and crunched away on the rest with apparent satisfaction. The scorpion was probably a burrowing scorpion, of the genus Opistophthalmus, which is capable of delivering a very painful sting. Its hole in the ground is spiral-shaped, explaining why the badger was twisting and turning so much in his pursuit. As soon as the scorpion had disappeared down the badger’s throat, he was off again after another. In two hours over two days, I watched him excavate about 20 scorpions.

Honey Badger

He showed little fear of humans and was the most confiding honey badger I have ever photographed. In most parts of their southern African range, sightings of honey badgers are quite rare, but on just one morning drive in the Central Kalahari I counted 14 of them. How many scorpions there must be to feed them all!

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About Grant Atkinson

I am a South African who grew up in the former Transkei, (now the Eastern Cape) and I spent much of my time along the Wild Coast. For over ten years I have been working as a guide in northern Botswana, for a company called Wilderness Safaris. I spend many days of each year leading photographic safari trips with small groups of people through our fixed camps in the Kalahari, Okavango, Linyanti and Savuti regions, mostly. My special interests are birds, lions and photography, in no special order. When I am not guiding in the field, I take part in some of our companies environmental projects. Botswana is a country with a solid conservation ethic, and I am fortunate to be able to share some of what I do and see by means of my writing and my images. Visit my photography page

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  • Cheryl Dormer

    A wonderful heartwarming story, and the photographs are stunning. What a gorgeous little animal. Thank you for sharing…..
    Kind regards

  • Jeanette Leinweber

    What a priceless encounter! This is a very beautiful little story about one of my most loved animals and the photos are outstanding!!! I so hope to meet one of these gorgeous little guys when I’ll visit the Kalahari next March.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful entry :-)

  • Jill

    Wonderful story, excellent photographs, thank you very much!
    Jill

  • Ann gibson

    I have just read “Wild Honey” by Bookey Peek in which she describes her heartwarming experiences of raising a baby honey badger on their wildlife sanctuary in Zimbabwe. Her descriptions really endeared this little creature to me so it was great to see your amazing photos of an HB hunting. Well Done!!

  • http://WWW.GRANTATKINSON.COM GRANT ATKINSON

    Thanks Cheryl, Jeanette, Jill and Ann and for all the positive comments. I must say that most badgers I see tend to run away from vehicles, but this guy was just so relaxed. As soon as I realized that I knew I had to make the most of it, and over three mornings I probably spent 4 hours watching him. I am going to be spending almost two weeks in the CKGR early next year, so perhaps I will come across this ‘show-off’ badger again.

  • Eugenie

    Great pictures Grant! We hardly ever get a glimpse into the “secret” lives of honey badgers, and the behaviour illustrated in these images are seldom seen… effective and ferocious!!!