NEW YORK – Somewhere in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Brian Jones and Stoffel continue their battle for supremacy.
Jones is an optimistic wildlife conservationist at an animal rehabilitation center. Stoffel is a surly honey badger.
They square off at regular intervals in “Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem,” part of PBS’ “Nature” program. Jones builds a cage; Stoffel escapes.
It’s yet another deserved tribute to a toothy creature that looks like the spawn of a skunk and a sloth with the charm of a Komodo dragon.
Honey badgers — who knew — have a huge online following.
As of Tuesday, “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger,” with narration by a prissily high-minded human named Randall, had nearly 66 million views on YouTube — “Eating larva? How disgusting is that!” A poisonous snake? Yum! (They sleep off the poison).
Though honey badgers max out at around 19 pounds (8.5 kg), they can attack anything moving if they feel bothered. Over at the animal rehab center, giraffes, rhinos and lions gambol peacefully until Stoffel scurries into view.
“Can’t help but love him, he’s so brave,” said Jones, who watched him lock jaws on a rhino’s belly and bite a lion.
Beekeepers often shoot them because they destroy costly hives to get at their favorite food, ignoring angry swarms. Honey badgers just don’t care. One badger survived 300 stings. Stoffel got a second chance when Jones rescued him from a trap some 20 years ago and eventually procured him badgeress Hammy in the hopes of calming him down.
Honey badgers have amazing problem-solving skills. After being confined in what looks like a deep, sunken pen with a single tree in the middle, Stoffel is seen spending the night breaking off its branches to build a ladder.
At a safari lodge in another part of Kruger National Park, zoologist Low de Vries tracks honey badgers prowling at the dump. Aspects of the honey badger — by the way, the creature is really of the weasel family — have interested de Vries since childhood. For instance, why do pups hang around with their mother for two years?
At night, frustrated hyenas and porcupines are forced to cede their fair share of leftovers to the creatures. To hurry them away from the dump, the badgers eject fluid from their anal pouches that smells so awful de Vries begins writhing in his car.
As for the world of badger parenting, that, in de Vries’ opinion, is best left alone.