In this rarely-witnessed moment of symbiosis, a honey badger hunts 2 snakes while a hawk and jackal wait for scraps! This sighting took place en route to Nossob in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Why honey badgers, goshawks, and jackals can be spotted together
The symbiosis between these 3 species can be classified as commensalism. This is when one or two parties benefit from the other, which neither benefits nor is harmed. Badgers are phenomenal diggers and rarely hesitate to take on any animal – even venomous snakes! Studies show that they feed mostly on rodents and will often excavate burrows of mice, rats, etc. Black-backed jackals and pale chanting goshawks have been known to hang around honey badgers, waiting for an opportunity to snatch up anything that escapes the badger’s attention.
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75-Year-old retired professor Peet van Schalkwyk, and his wife Lynn van Heerden, had the privilege of seeing this unfold and shared the story with LatestSightings.com:
“After a flat tire, and having to go back to camp for fuel, we told ourselves that it was too late for any sightings. 10 km From Twee Rivieren we spotted a honey badger next to the road, sniffing and digging all around. 2 Pale chanting goshawks and 2 jackals were on standby nearby. We were alone since all the other cars were already far ahead in the animal-spotting race.”
“I told Lynn to get ready with her camera because I knew that if he flushed a rat, the goshawks or jackals would catch it. To my surprise, he dug up a writhing snake. It may have been a cape cobra or a mole snake. He snuck behind a bush to enjoy his meal. We were excited because we knew this was a very special and rare sighting.”
Badger hunts not just 1 snake, but 2!
“He came back and started digging again, and wow… he pulled out another snake! Lynn is terrified of snakes, even photographing them, yet she continued taking pictures. We watched the badger consume the second snake right in front of us while being watched by the goshawks and jackals. He then became very lethargic and lay down. He tried to dig again but eventually passed out – we suspect he may have been bitten.”
“Other cars arrived and we shared what we had witnessed. Somebody told us about a leopard in a tree at Leeudril, so we made our way there. When we returned after 3 hours, the badger was still there, head inside a hole and digging again.”
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Hawk waits for any scraps
“When we shared our sighting with an experienced ranger at camp, he told us that he had never experienced anything even slightly similar to what we had seen. Lynn told him that this was a once-in-a-lifetime sighting, to which he replied ‘no, once in two lifetimes’.”
“Make sure that someone takes photos and somebody else takes videos. When we arrived back home, I bought a video camera.”
“Our advice would be to go with the flow. You never know when or where your next sighting may be. Get out early and get back late. We drive the same roads over and over again. In the Kgalagadi, the springboks give the predators away, just keep an eye on them.”
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