Honey badgers on the hunt are one of the Kgalagadi’s spectacular sightings. Although they are normally seen trotting along in search of mice and scorpions, Jacques Blignaut spotted one in a tree. What happened next is one of his most treasured moments, and is collected in the book Photo Tales.

You can never dictate what you want to see in the bush. You might have a wish list but there is no guarantee your wishes will be granted. I have learnt this over many years going into the wild, so I always arrive with the attitude that anything I see is a boon. I’ve had many special sightings over the years: from elephants to the smallest insects, they have all been marvellous. Then there is the experience which truly stands out, and that probably no one else has had. But I have photographic proof of this unique sighting, so special you wouldn’t even think to put it on your wish list.

During one of our visits to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, a martial eagle and its chick were spotted close to Veertiende Boorgat. On the morning of 15 August 2018, another visitor told me where the nest was located. We’d already passed the location and so decided to visit the nest in the evening. 

We arrived at the spot but could see neither the mother nor the chick. Off we drove all the way to Dertiende Boorgat and back. On the return journey I spotted the martial eagle in the nest and then I saw the chick. I was most excited as I have never seen a martial eagle chick before. The next moment I saw a honey badger in the nest and wondered what it could possibly be doing there. Before we could quite take it in, the intruder had snatched the chick. It was like a kidnapping in the movies. 

The honey badger popped out of the nest with the martial eagle chick in its mouth. Pictures by Jacques Blignaut, taken from Photo Tales, courtesy of HPH Publishing

In the southern Kalahari honey badgers have been repeatedly recorded raiding raptor nests. As long as a tree’s bark is rough and gives the honey badger something to grasp, the predator can climb it.

The honey badger thief makes off with its prize. The martial eagle chick seems almost as big as its hunter.

We drove away five minutes later in disbelief. I had never seen anything like it. Not even the black-maned lion of the Kalahari could quite beat this. Looking back, I rate it as our most memorable sighting, despite the sorrow we felt, knowing as we did that the martial eagle lays only one egg every two years.

Contribute to Photo Tales

HPH Publishing is working on a second edition of the Photo Tales book. Would you like to see your wildlife photo or action sequence in print? Submit your contribution and you could see your work featured in the second edition of Photo Tales.