First ever European-born Honey Badger Rewilded
The Aspinall Foundation Partner With Howletts Wild Animal Park In Europe’s First Honey Badger Rewilding Project
The first ever European-born honey badger to be rewilded has begun her new life in the wild, after travelling from Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent to Loskop Dam Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa as part of The Aspinall Foundation’s successful Back To The Wild initiative.
Tembe, a 6-year-old female honey badger, was born to parents BeeBee and Tyson at Howletts Wild Animal Park near Canterbury in 2016. Her parents were both owned by other European collections and were transported together out of the UK as part of the captive breeding plan, leaving Tembe alone as the only honey badger in Kent and one of only 24 in Europe.
With a feisty personality, Tembe was a firm favourite of staff and visitors to Howletts Wild Animal Park. However, the Howletts team and their partners at The Aspinall Foundation believe that every animal, wherever possible, deserves a chance at a life in the wild.
After months of extensive preparations, Tembe was waved off by her dedicated keepers and members of The Aspinall Foundation team on 16th March 2023. She left the UK from Heathrow Airport in a specially designed transport crate and after an 11-hour flight, she landed safely in Johannesburg.
There, Tembe was met by the team from The Aspinall Foundation and Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA), who transported her to her new home at Loskop Dam Nature Reserve. The reserve covers an area of 23,612 hectares and is home to many species, including giraffe, zebra, white rhino and an estimated 15 wild honey badgers. The insects and small vertebrates which make up the bulk of a wild honey badger’s diet are abundant, and a dedicated ranger team is in place to monitor and protect the animals and their habitats, making it an ideal home for Tembe.
Tembe first acclimatised to her new life in an area known as a boma, where she was carefully monitored as she got used to the climate, food and exciting sights and smells of her new home. Tembe quickly adapted to her new life, remaining as greedy, cheeky and ferocious as ever.
In early May, it was clear to The Aspinall Foundation and their partners at MTPA that Tembe was ready for release into the wider reserve, where she has the chance to live wild and free, as all animals should. Her holding boma was opened on 3rd May and Tembe quickly began to explore her new home, under the watchful eye of a monitoring team and 10 dedicated camera traps. The monitoring team report that is a very confident badger and is exploring further and further from her boma, which she occasionally returns to as hunts and forages.
Damian Aspinall, Chairman of The Aspinall Foundation, commented: “There are 24 honey badgers in captivity in Europe, but the population is not managed for conservation benefits and the small population is not viable as an ‘insurance’ population against extinction in the wild. These captive animals sadly offer no benefit to ongoing conservation projects. In fact, zoos are supplementing the dwindling captive population with imported individuals who have been tragically stolen from the wild to be displayed to an unknowing public.
Giving Tembe a chance at a new life in the lands of her ancestors is the right thing to do for both Tembe as an individual and for the species as a whole. I am proud that The Aspinall Foundation continues to lead the way in rewilding in this way, with more than 1,000 animals rescued or rewilded so far.”
The Aspinall Foundation has an almost 40-year history of successful rescue and rewilding projects, with more than 1,000 animals rescued, rewilded or relocated to date.
Founded in 1984, the foundation is best known for its successes with Western lowland gorillas, with over 70 gorillas returned to areas of protected wilderness from both in and ex-situ populations into the wild, and over 35 births to released animals. The foundation have also rewilded 8 black rhino, 4 cheetahs, more than 270 Javan primates, 12 European bison, 20 mandrills, 11 Przewalski horses, 1 Sumatran rhino, 1 brown hyena, 5 Iberian wolves, 2 lions, 7 African painted dogs, 3 zebra and hundreds more animals to protected areas of their ancestral homelands.
Since 2019, The Aspinall Foundation has worked extensively In Southern Africa on rescue, rewilding and emergency translocation projects. Together with partners, the Foundation team in Southern Africa have protected a further 565 animals, including rhino, crocodiles, elephants, hippos, pangolins and many more species.Learn more about The Aspinall Foundation’s work in South Africa