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11 Fierce Facts About the Honey Badger

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You’ve probably heard all kinds of things about the honey badger and wondered, “Are these claims substantiated?” (First and foremost: Is it true that honey badgers don’t care?) Here are a few things we know for sure.

1. THEIR NAME MEANS “HONEY EATER OF THE CAPE.”

Mellivora capensis is the species’ formal name, but you can go ahead and judge a honey badger by its common name. These little monsters love the sweet stuff. “The Cape” is The Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, where many reside (they also call the Middle East and India home). Another one of their names is ratel, which is an Afrikaans word that might be derived from the Dutch word for honeycomb, raat.

2. THEY’RE SKUNK-LIKE.

Aside from their physical similarities, the honey badger also boasts a dangerous gland at the base of its tail containing a stinky liquid. Generally, it’s just used to mark territory, but should the animal find itself in distress, its biological kneejerk is to release a stink bomb—different, but just as rotten as its sister scent-leaver.

3. THEY CAN DIG LIKE CRAZY.

Using their long claws, honey badgers dig burrows to rest in, sometimes on a daily basis. They’ll do it anywhere—in the ground, in a tree trunk, or even into an old termite mound. If needed, they can dig themselves a hiding hole in a matter of minutes and use their natural excavation skills to capture prey underground.

4. BUT THEY’RE LAZY ABOUT HOUSEKEEPING.

If a honey badger isn’t in the mood to make its own bed, it’s not shy about making itself at home in someone else’s residence. The creatures have been known to get comfortable in the dens of aardvarks or in the tunnels of foxes, mongooses, or springhares. (Really any crevice or hole will do for the honey badger.) They’re really good at adapting: The animals are usually diurnal in winter, but where they need to avoid humans, they’re usually nocturnal.

5. THEY’RE MEAN.

It’s true that the honey badger has the Guinness Book of World Records title of "World's Most Fearless Creature," but they’re more than just audacious: they’re downright mean. They’re invasive and eager to pick a fight—even with a porcupine. But that doesn’t mean they’re invincible. Hyenas, lions, leopards and pythons are all foes (as are humans), but if those are considered your only enemies, you’re probably incredibly tough.

6. THEY’LL EAT ANYTHING.

Seriously, anything and everything. They’re omnivores who will go after mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, larvae, plants, fruit, eggs, and roots.

7. THEY’RE THICK-SKINNED.

Literally. There are reports of arrows and spears glancing off their thick, rubbery epidermis, which is also loose enough that, should a honey badger get caught in the mouth of a predator, it can writhe around and break loose. (A second option is to retaliate using its crazy powerful teeth—see number 8.) The honey badger may even have a resistance to snake venom and is sometimes able to sleep off a bite. (Their thick skin comes in handy in this way, too.) Snakes compose a quarter of their diets.

8. THEIR TEETH ARE CRAZY POWERFUL.

They can chomp down with enough force to break the shell of a tortoise.

9. THEY DON'T ACTUALLY PARTNER UP WITH BIRDS TO FIND FOOD.

You might have heard that honey badgers and honeyguide birds have a good partnership going. The honeyguide leads the badger to the hive and then eats up after the honey badger destroys it. Well, after over 200 years of study, we can pretty definitively say that honey badgers don’t care. This behavior has never been reliably seen in the wild, and even playing honeyguide songs elicits no response.

10. THEY’RE SOLITARY WEASELS.

Honey badgers are in the same family as weasels, and just like those prickly beasts, honey badgers are pretty solitary. They keep to themselves and definitely stay out of the public eye, usually only banding together to mate. Babies are the exception: Young kits often stick with their mothers for so long that they can outgrow her.

11. THEY’RE SMART.

Ferocious, fearless, and pugnacious animals aren’t always the smartest, but honey badgers break the mold. They’re so intelligent that they even use tools: Video from Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in South Africa revealed that a team of honey badgers used sticks, a rake, mud, stones, and pure determination in their attempts to escape. You can watch this, and all of Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem, on YouTube. If the Planet of the Apes franchise ever loses steam, it seems like we might have another animal to suggest for a spinoff.

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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