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PBS
A PBS special features the honey badger Stoffel.

Special covers game of wits with honey badger

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 that Jones rescued from a trap about 20 years ago.

They square off at regular intervals in “Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem,” airing today on PBS’s “Nature”program at 8 p.m.

It’s a tribute to a toothy creature that looks like the spawn of a skunk and a sloth with the charm of a komodo. Beekeepers often shoot them because they destroy costly hives to get at their favorite food, ignoring angry swarms. One badger survived 300 stings.

Honey badgers – they’re actually part of the weasel family – max out at only about 19 pounds but will attack anything moving if they feel bothered.

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,” Jones said while watching Stoffel lock jaws on a rhino’s belly and bite a lion.

Jones builds a cage; Stoffel escapes.

Honey badgers have amazing problem-solving skills. After Jones confines him in what looks like a deep, sunken pen with a single tree in the middle, he spends the night breaking off its branches to build a ladder.

Stoffel has a pal, Hammy. We see him clawing open the bottom lock on a chain link fence while she scurries up to undo the top bolt. Mission achieved, he holds the door open for her and off they go.

This “Nature” show features quite a few amusingly crestfallen humans. Beekeeper Guy Stubbs, for instance, keeps bringing his new badger-proof hives to the rehab center, where Stoffel and Hammy invariably embarrass him in front of the cameras.

But Stoffel’s escapes seem thwarted as the program ends. Jones, finally, encases his pen with an electric fence. As he bends over the wall to greet his pet, Stoffel stands on his hind legs, growling so angrily you would not be surprised if smoke came out of his ears and his head swiveled 360 degrees.

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