The digital recordings of Iraq’s supposedly cryptid Garta (“The Muncher”) look like “badgers,” of course. But what is a badger? Why would American and British troops in Basrah think these were unusual badgers?
Some clarification needs to be shared on what is a badger? Most Americans visualize the badger differently than how most Europeans do. In Africa, when you say “badger,” Africans think of another animal, as well.
The Honey Badger or Ratel.
Badger is the common name for any animal of three subfamilies, which belong to the family Mustelidae: the same mammal family as the ferrets, the weasels, the otters, and several other types of carnivore.
The American badger.
There are eight species of badger, in three subfamilies: Melinae (the Eurasian badgers), Mellivorinae, (the Ratel or honey badger), and Taxideinae (the American badger). The Asiatic stink badgers of the genus Mydaus were formerly included in the Melinae, but recent genetic evidence indicates that these are actually Old World relatives of the skunks (family Mephitidae).
Typical badgers (Meles, Arctonyx, Taxidea and Mellivora species) are short-legged and “heavy-set”. The lower jaw is articulated to the upper, by means of a transverse condyle firmly locked into a long cavity of the cranium, so that dislocation of the jaw is all but impossible. This enables the badgers to maintain its hold with the utmost tenacity.
This Iraqi “mystery animal” certainly looks like the ratel (Mellivora capensis).
The ratels or honey badgers are distributed throughout most of Africa and western and south Asian areas of Baluchistan (eastern Iran), Pakistan and Rajasthan (western India). Are they moving into Iraq? Are they being transported into Iraq from Iran? Is it a sinister plot? Have the animals spread into Iraq on their own? Or perhaps recent distribution ranges have overlooked Mellivora capensis in Iraq and a little paranoia is afoot?
According to The Mammals of Iraq by Robert T. Hatt (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1959), the honey badger or ratel were found in Iraq at least through the 1950s. Marsh drainage has hurt the survival of the honey badger there today, but certainly it appears some are still being encountered around Basrah.
Within cryptozoology, the honey badger/ratel is one of the known species which has been blamed for some mysterious aggressive attacks on humans in Africa. The cryptid discussed in this regard is the elusive Nandi Bear, as per Bernard Heuvelmans and others. Frank Lane, an early cryptozoological author, wrote the Nandi Bear was as well-known as the Yeti, in its day.
The ratel have been named the most fearless animal in the Guinness Book of World Records for a number of years.
The Nandi bear is a ferocious cryptid of East Africa, mostly known from the Rift Valley, Kenya, and is variously described as a primate, a hynea, and a bear, as well as a ratel. From its name, as can be deduced, the use of “bear-like” has been a frequent description. Interestingly, the first article on the Garta used the word “bear-like” but the visual tells us otherwise.
Ulimately, it seems, the Garta may be nothing more than a natural alert that the ratels survive in Iraq, in spite of a war and villagers killing them.