Rare albino honey badger captured on camera in South Africa

Honey badgers have cemented their place as one of Africa's most fearsome and charismatic predators – helped in no small part by jaw-dropping videos of the two-toned creatures tackling leopards and playing 'python tug-of-war' with jackals.

Their fame has made them instantly recognisable, but there's one individual hiding out in South Africa's De Hoop Nature Reserve sporting a different look. A rare, albino honey badger was recently caught on camera in the Western Cape conservancy, looking more like a mini polar bear than a badger.

Researchers working for BirdLife South Africa and Panthera were conducting a study to assess the abundance of predators that may pose a threat to the establishment of a new penguin colony in the area, when they stumbled across an image of an all-white badger. Regular honey badgers have black faces and underparts blanketed by a cloak of thick, silvery white fur that covers their backs and the tops of their heads. The pale individual photographed in De Hoop is reportedly affected by albinism – an inherited genetic condition that causes a lack of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to skin, hair and eyes.

While at least one anecdotal record of an albino honey badger exists, the new sighting marks the first time the condition has been recorded in scientific literature for the species. Albino animals are often at a disadvantage as the disorder results in reduced visual perception and an increased sensitivity to the sun. A white honey badger is also more likely to have difficulty blending into its surroundings making it more of a challenge for the animal to successfully stalk its prey.

Honey badgers are not known to target penguins, so it's unlikely that the pearly predator will pose a significant threat to the newly proposed breeding colony. According to CapeNature, the camera trap survey was focused more on species such as leopards or caracals which have been known to significantly deplete penguin populations.