Late last year the Kruger National Park delivered two big ticks for tour guide Norman Lok: cheetahs and honey badgers. Even more special was the interaction between these predators. Honey badgers have a reputation for being fierce – something these two young cheetahs still had to learn.
Norman tells us how the encounter played out.
“We had spent the previous evening at Satara and decided to take the S100/Nwanetsi River Road for our morning drive. This is a ‘hit or miss’ road but is well known for its lion sightings.
“It had rained all night and it was still very overcast, not great conditions for game viewing or photography. About 12km down the S100 I noticed a few cars had stopped to watch something. As I approached the vehicles, I saw three cheetahs standing in the road.
“From experience I could tell it was an adult female cheetah and her two sub-adult cubs. All of a sudden the youngsters bolted into the grass – they had spotted something moving and went to investigate. What transpired is one of my most memorable sightings ever.
“There, in the grass, were two honey badgers trotting along. This was probably the first time that the sub-adult cheetahs had come across the elusive honey badger.
“The youngsters surrounded the two honey badgers and were ready to attack them as far as I could see.
“But the honey badgers stood their ground and kept lunging at the big cats, not letting them out of their sight. While all this was going on, the female cheetah kept her distance. She must have had previous experience with honey badgers and knew that you didn’t mess with them.
“Eventually the young cheetahs gave up. They must have realised that they were up against one of the most ferocious animals in the bush. The honey badgers made a quick getaway while the cheetahs playfully returned to their mother. She led them off into the bush, but not before scent marking the area.
“It was certainly a good learning experience for the two sub-adult cheetahs. Cats will instinctively see something smaller as prey, but when they realise they are up against something as fierce as a honey badger, they will leave it alone.
“I have seen honey badgers on a few occasions in Kruger, always in the central region of the Park (S100 and H7), but never a sighting like this!”