Monthly Archives: September 2016

African coral tree

Erythrina caffra is a medium to large deciduous tree. It grows in coastal bushes and riverine forests along the south eastern coast of South Africa, including Sibuya Game Reserve and up into Zululand.

erythrina_caffra

Leaves

The leaves are made up of three leaflets. Each leaflet is broadly ovate to elliptical. The leaflets do not have prickles and are hairless.

Flowers

The flowers are made up of a main petal and four small petals. The main petal curves back to expose the stamens. This is one of the main differences between Erythrina caffra and Erythrina lysistemon. The flowers form stalked axillary racemes up to 100mm long.

Trunk

The bark is reasonably smooth with thorns every now and then. The younger the branch the sharper the thorns.

Honey Badger

Appearance

Honey Badgers are about 250 mm high at the shoulders and weigh 12 Kg. Their coats have a broad and course saddle of grey hair running from above the eyes to the base of their tail, which contrasts starkly with their black underparts. They have a low slung body, with tiny ears and stout legs, and have massive claws. The latter is an adaptation for digging and spending time under ground, but are also formidable weapons. It is primarily terrestrial but can climb, especially when attracted by honey. It travels by a jog-trot but is tireless and trails its prey until the prey is run to the ground.

honey_badger

Diet

A carnivore which feeds on a variety of small animals, scorpions and mice. They also take larger items like springhares and snakes. They may scavenge small antelope kills from other carnivores. The extent to which they eat honey is unknown. They are alleged to be led to beehives by the honey guide bird. The latter is supposed to be rewarded by the Honey Badger by scraps of honeycomb.

Breeding

The Honey Badger is thought to breed all year round, with females thought to have two young per litter. Research in the southern Kalahari showed that cubs stayed with their mothers for a minimum of 14 months, before becoming independent. This is in marked contrast to the Eurasian Badger which may become independent at 3 months.

Behaviour

Honey Badgers are solitary foragers and foraging behaviour is characterised by a slow winding walk with continuous smelling of rodent and small reptile holes and scent trails. In the southern Kalahari, Honey Badgers switch from being predominantly nocturnal in summer and diurnal in Winter. However, in areas where honey badgers are affected by human activities they are usually nocturnal.

Habitat

Honey Badgers have a wide habitat tolerance and are found in a wide variety of environmental conditions, except for extreme deserts and areas receiving more than 2000 mm of rain per year.

Where they are found

Widely distributed throughout South Africa including Sibuya Game Reserve, but absent from the north-west coastal areas.

Predators

Adults are frequently killed by Leopard and Lion. Their black and white colouration is thought to provide a warning to other predators of their strength and tenacity.

Interesting facts

Honey Badgers do appear to have some immunity to snake venoms. A Honey Badger bitten on the face by the highly cytotoxic puffadder showed signs of severe pain but recovered fully within five hours. This immunity may develop over the life time of the honey badgers due to regular contact with small amounts of venom in snakes, scorpions and bees. Young cubs are prevented from catching poisonous snakes by their mothers until they have the necessary skills and coordination. While Honey Badgers also appear to have some immunity to bee stings, they have been found stung to death in hives, particularly in commercial apiaries.