An adult African rock python can weigh at least three times as much as your average honey badger, but what the badger lacks in size, it more than makes up for in daring ferocity.
This python-badger face-off was captured on camera by photographer and biologist Susan McConnell on a morning safari drive at Singita Lebombo, a private lodge in the east of South Africa’s Kruger National Park. After spending the morning watching and photographing cheetah cubs, McConnell and her tour guides were on their way back to camp.
“As our vehicle rounded a corner, tracker Glass Marimane called out, ‘Honey badger!’ We slammed to a halt and pulled out binoculars, spotting a large male honey badger digging at the foot of a tree,” McConnell wrote on her website.
The honey badger’s relatively small size and nocturnal habits make it tricky to spot in the wild, so catching a glimpse of one of these two-toned carnivores is a special treat. And this badger was on the hunt: it had flushed out a sizeable python from its hiding place, and it instantly went on the offensive.
Southern African rock pythons rank among the largest snakes in the world and can reach up to 90 kilograms (this one never had the chance to grow quite so large, however). Although these reptiles are accomplished hunters capable of taking down prey much larger than themselves, they’re sometimes targeted by opportunistic predators – and honey badgers are the ultimate opportunists.
While the majority of honey badger meals come in the form of small mammals, these animals are known to gobble down everything from reptiles to venomous snakes and small birds (as well as the occasional serving of baked treats).
True to their name, the badgers will also raid honey bee nests to get at the juicy bee larva inside. Using their pungent anal glands, they’ll fumigate the hive before ripping at it with their powerful claws.
After going head to head with the supersized snake, the badger came out victorious, and was last spotted by McConnell dragging its prize into the thick bush.