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NATURE: Honey Badgers: Masters Of Mayhem

Airs Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 at 8 p.m. & Sunday, Feb. 23 at 4 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A honey badger is in confrontation stance, tail up, ready for action, Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, South Africa.

“Honey badger is badass.” Those words and corresponding video became a YouTube sensation, with 51 million hits. The honey badger has earned a reputation as the “tough guy” of the African savannah despite its small size. Sporting a bold black and white coat, this little carnivore swaggers through life equipped with big teeth, heavy claws, and strong jaws which provide some assistance when they seek out and antagonize larger beasts. This well-armed and fearless creature never gives up and never gives in, but its most valuable weapon might just be one of the best brains in all the wild.

Courtesy of Will Benson/©Oxford Scientific Films & THIRTEEN Productions LLC

Honey badger appearing by the fireside at a safari camp in the Greater Kruger National Park.

Courtesy of Robin Cox/©Oxford Scientific Films & THIRTEEN Productions LLC

A honey badger showing its impressive build perched on top of an oil drum at night, Klasserie Game Reserve, South Africa.

Courtesy of ©Moholoholo

Honey Badger making a meal out of a small mammal, Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, South Africa.

Courtesy of Will Benson/©Oxford Scientific Films & THIRTEEN Productions LLC

Honey badger, Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, South Africa.

NATURE follows honey badger specialists in South Africa as they try to study and outwit the clever creatures when "Honey Badgers: Masters Of Mayhem" airs Wednesday, February 19, 2014 on PBS. After the broadcast, the episode, narrated by actor Daniel Stern, will be available for online streaming at pbs.org/nature.

Zoologist Low de Vries has been fascinated by honey badgers since he was a child, and sets out to learn more about these feisty creatures whose behavior is still relatively unknown to science. He sets out a camera trap at a perfect spot on the outskirts of Kruger National Park in an attempt to observe the normally elusive animals as they go in and out of a den, but also stakes out a rubbish dump at a safari lodge where they are well-known nightly scavengers.

While de Vries’ attempt to film them at the den ends in disappointment, the rubbish dump badgers provide a wealth of entertainment as they chase off porcupines, jackals, and even a large hyena who wander in hoping to share in the spoils. His cameras later follow the badgers into the lodge’s kitchen, where they proceed to ransack the place, even prying open the refrigerator to eat their fill before disappearing back into the night.

Wildlife conservationist Brian Jones, who rescues injured animals, has a soft spot for honey badgers despite the daily challenges he experiences with his pet badger Stoffel. "Honey Badgers: Masters Of Mayhem" chronicles Jones’ tales of Stoffel breaking into his house; attacking other animals at his rehabilitation center, no matter how big or small; and continually outwitting attempts to keep the clever mastermind from escaping a pen that is intended to keep him in. Matching wits and determination with Stoffel has kept Jones busy and full of admiration for more than 20 years.

Despite its name, the honey badger isn’t really a badger at all, but part of the weasel family. However, it does like honey and has become a scourge to beekeepers, shrugging off countless stings as it breaks into their hives.

As the program details, beekeeper Guy Stubbs tries to devise a hive that will thwart them, but effective badger-proof hives prove difficult to design. When Stubbs is ready to field test his latest effort, he enlists Stoffel and Hammy, a younger female badger, to try their luck, and can’t believe it when his hopes are dashed yet again.

NATURE is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET for PBS. For NATURE, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. "Honey Badgers: Masters Of Mayhem" is an OSF Wales Production for BBC and THIRTEEN Productions LLC in association with WNET.

NATURE is on Facebook, and you can follow @PBSNature on Twitter. Past episodes of NATURE are available for online viewing.

Video

Nature: Honey Badgers: Masters Of Mayhem Preview

Above: “Honey badger is bad ass.” Those words and corresponding video became a YouTube sensation, with 51 million hits. This “thug of the savannah” is one the most fearless animals in the world, renowned for its ability to confront grown lions, castrate charging buffalo and shrug off the toxic defenses of stinging bees, scorpions and snakes. Little is known about its behavior in the wild or why it is so aggressive. This film follows badger specialists in South Africa who take on these masters of mayhem in ways that must be seen to be believed.

Video

Honey Badger Scares Off Hyenas

Above: A rubbish dump provides a wealth of entertainment for zoologist Low de Vries as honey badgers chase off porcupines, jackals, and even a large hyena who wander in hoping to share in the spoils. His cameras later follow the badgers into the lodge’s kitchen, where they proceed to ransack the place, even prying open the refrigerator to eat their fill before disappearing back into the night.

Video

No Lock Can Hold This Honey Badger

Above: Wildlife conservationist Brian Jones attempts to keep clever honey badgers from escaping a customized pen, but it’s not a simple task: matching wits and determination with his adopted honey badger has kept Jones busy and full of admiration for more than 20 years.

Video

Honey Badger vs. Bee Hive

Above: Honey badgers do indeed enjoy honey and they have become a scourge to beekeepers, shrugging off countless stings as it breaks into their hives. As the NATURE on PBS program details, beekeeper Guy Stubbs tries to devise a hive that will thwart them, but effective badger-proof hives prove difficult to design. When Stubbs is ready to field test his latest effort, he enlists Stoffel and Hammy, a younger female badger, to try their luck, and can’t believe it when his hopes are dashed yet again.

Video

Honey Badger Narrates: Honey Badgers-Masters of Mayhem