A teeny-tiny baby Honey Badger named Rafiki


Written by Alicia Thomas, Committee Member – SPCA Louis Trichardt

The tiny black-and-white baby Honey Badger was all alone in the vastness of a farm when he was found in July 2018.

Due to our location, surrounded with the wild bushveld, little toothy critters make their way to us every so often. We’re always extremely grateful that people hand them over to the SPCA, because not only is it against the law to keep indigenous animals, it’s also really cruel to deny them a normal life in their wild habitat.

An orphan in the bush

When Honey Badger cubs are born, they’re blind and naked and will only start to become independent after being with their mother for up to two years. This little guy was estimated to be only about two to three months old since he’d already grown his stripy coat and his eyes were open.

Typically, the female moves her young one to a fresh hole every two to five days and goes out to hunt for food at night. We suspect that the mother may have succumbed during her nightly forage, because if she’d been anywhere near the cub, she would never have allowed people near her young – Honey Badgers are notoriously savage when protecting their offspring.

The baby was absolutely famished and disorientated when he was found, enforcing the suspicion that he’d been orphaned. He was named Rafiki, which means “friend”.

Finding a new home for Rafiki

Rafiki was taken to foster Marcia Potgieter to care for him while the search for an appropriate rehabilitation centre began. Marcia did a wonderful job of nursing him back to full health, and we decided that SanWild Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, outside Gravelotte, Limpopo province, would be his ideal new home. 

Because of the long juvenile period for Honey Badgers, when their mothers teach them the ins and outs of being a successful hunter of their often-dangerous prey (including snakes), we knew Rafiki would need to be weaned off human interactions and have a “mentor”.

SanWild have successfully rehabilitated quite a number of Honey Badgers, and we have no doubt that he’ll be no exception. 

Our friend, Rafiki

But even when you know you’re doing the right thing, goodbyes are always hard. Marcia went with us to see his new accommodation and to meet the people who’ll be feeding and caring for him before he can be put in the enclosed camp where he’ll have to get used to being independent. 

All concerns about his future dissipated when we met Denise Lightfoot and Rebecca Mohaleamalla, who’ll be Rafiki’s primary carer. They both have such a deep love for animals and knowledge to care for wild beings. There truly is no better place for our friend, Rafiki!

Helping wild animals at SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary

Denise Lightfoot of SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary adds, “Rafiki was found next to a farm road and, fortunately, Alicia and the staff at SPCA Louis Trichardt were there to help him and get him to our Rehabilitation unit. He will be with us for a good few months and, at this stage, he is doing very well.”

Lizel Kachelhoffer says, “SanWild was established in 2000 as a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre for injured, orphaned or misplaced wildlife like Rafiki.

“All the animals are released into the reserve to live their lives in the wild (other than the lions, which, unfortunately, cannot be released but do live in large, natural-habitat enclosures in their pride groups). Over the years, rescues have included all species, from squirrels to elephants and lots of animals in between. We even have two hippos named Tonga and Aldo, who lived in circuses in Europe and who now enjoy lazy swimming days in their dam.

“Some rescues have been uneventful and others had the adrenaline pumping, but the joy of seeing a wild animal released is always worth all the effort to save their lives.

"There is an increasing number of cases involving wildlife being kept as pets, from suricates (meerkats) to caracals. These animals have very specific diets and social structures and should never be kept as pets; it is also illegal to keep indigenous animals as pets without a permit from the relevant authorities. Numerous suricates, banded mongoose and other wild animals have been taken in and rehabilitated over time into family groups and released.”

Please report any wildlife seen being sold in pet shops or on the roadside to your nearest SPCA so that they can be confiscated and moved to a rehabilitation centre.

For more information about SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary, email lizel@sanwild.org, and follow them on Facebook @SanWildWildlifeSanctuary (https://www.facebook.com/pg/SanWildWildlifeSanctuary/)