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Reading Practice:


  1. Although they are not big animals, honey badgers are fearless, ………… and tough.
  2. Honey badgers will attack …………if they need to protect themselves.
  3. The pattern and colours on the honey badger's back make it …………
  4. The food they eat is meat-based and …………
  5. ………… form the biggest part of a honey badger's diet.
  6. Honey badgers find the creatures they eat by their …………
  7. ………… are often used to catch honey badgers which attack beehives.
  8. For one particular type of food, the honey badger has a …………with another creature.

The honey badger

It looks harmless and vulnerable. But the honey badger is afraid of nothing... and will attack and eat almost anything

The honey badger (Melivora capensis), is an African and south-Asian mammal that has a reputation for being one of the world's most fearless animals, despite its small size. And in spite of its gentle-sounding name, it is also one of its most aggressive. Honey badgers have been known to attack lions, buffalo, and snakes three times their size. Even humans are not safe from a honey badger if it thinks the human will attack or harm it. They are also extremely tough creatures, and can recover quickly from injuries that would kill most other animals.

At first glance, honey badgers look like the common European badger. They are usually between 75cm and 1 metre long, although males are about twice the size of females. They are instantly recognisable by grey and white stripes that extend from the top of the head to the tail. Closer inspection, which is probably not a wise thing to do, reveals pointed teeth, and sharp front claws which can be four centimetres in length.

Honey badgers are meat-eating animals with an extremely varied diet. They mainly eat a range of small creatures like beetles, lizards and birds, but will also catch larger reptiles like snakes and small crocodiles. Some mammals, such as foxes, antelope and wild cats also form part of their diet.

The badgers locate their prey mainly using their excellent sense of smell, and catch most of their prey through digging. During a 24-hour period, they may dig as many as fifty holes, and travel more than 40 kilometres. They are also good climbers, and can easily climb very tall trees to steal eggs from birds' nests, or catch other tree-dwelling creatures.

As their name suggests, honey badgers have always been associated with honey, although they do not actually eat it. It is the highly nutritious bee eggs (called 'brood') that they prefer, and they will do anything to find it. They usually cause a lot of damage to the hive in the process, and for this reason, humans are one of their main predators. Bee-keepers will often set special traps for honey badgers, to protect their hives.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the honey badger is its working relationship with a bird called the greater honey guide (Indicator indicator). This bird deliberately guides the badger to beehives, then waits while the badger breaks into the hive and extracts the brood. The two creatures, bird and mammal, then share the brood between them.


On the trail of the honey badger

Researchers learn more about this fearless African predator

On a recent field trip to the Kalahari Desert, a team of researchers learnt a lot more about honey badgers. They were rewarded with a detailed insight into how these fascinating creatures live and hunt.

The team employed a local wildlife expert, Kitso Khama, to help them locate and follow the badgers across the desert. Their main aim was to study the badgers' movements and behaviour as discreetly as possible, without frightening them away or causing them to change their natural behaviour. They also planned to trap a few and study them close up before releasing them. In view of the animal's reputation, this was something that even Khama was reluctant to do.

'The problem with honey badgers is they are naturally curious animals, especially when they see something new,' he says. 'That, combined with their unpredictable nature, can be a dangerous mixture. If they sense you have food, for example, they won't be shy about coming right up to you for something to eat. They're actually quite sociable creatures around humans, but as soon as they feel they might be in danger, they can become extremely vicious. Fortunately this is rare, but it does happen.'

The research confirmed many things that were already known. As expected, honey badgers ate any creatures they could catch and kill. Even poisonous snakes, feared and avoided by most other animals,, were not safe from them. The researchers were surprised, however, by the animal's fondness for local melons, probably because of their high water content. Previously researchers thought that the animal got all of its liquid requirements from its prey. The team also learnt that, contrary to previous research findings, the badgers occasionally formed loose family groups. They were also able to confirm certain results from previous research, including the fact that female badgers never socialised with each other.

Following some of the male badgers was a challenge, since they can cover large distances in a short space of time. Some hunting territories cover more than 500 square kilometres. Although they seem happy to share these territories with other males, there are occasional fights over an important food source, and male badgers can be as aggressive towards each other as they are towards other species.

As the badgers became accustomed to the presence of people, it gave the team the chance to get up close to them without being the subject of the animals' curiosity - or their sudden aggression. The badgers' eating patterns, which had been disrupted, returned to normal. It also allowed the team to observe more closely some of the other creatures that form working associations with the honey badger, as these seemed to adopt the badgers' relaxed attitude when near humans.


Question1: Why did the wildlife experts visit the Kalahari desert? Choose two reasons.

A To find where honey badgers live.

B To observe how honey badgers behave.

C To try to change the way honey badgers behave.

D To temporarily catch some honey badgers.

E To find out why honey badgers have such a bad reputation.

Questions 2-5

2. What two things does Kitso Khama say about honey badgers?

A. They show interest in things they are not familiar with.

B. It's hard to tell how they will behave.

C. They are always looking for food.

D. They do not enjoy human company.

E. It is common for them to attack people.


3. What two things did the team find out about honey badgers?

A. There are some creatures they will not eat.

B. They were afraid of poisonous creatures.

C. They may get some of the water they need from fruit.

D. They do not always live alone.

E. Female badgers do not mix with male badgers.


4. According to the passage, which of these two features are typical of male badgers?

A. They don't run very quickly.B They hunt over a very large area.

C. They defend their territory from other badgers.

D. They sometimes fight each other.

E. They are more aggressive than females.


5 What two things happened when the honey badgers got used to humans being around them?

A. The badgers lost interest in people.

B. The badgers became less aggressive towards other creatures.

C. The badgers started eating more.

D. Other animals started working with the badgers.

E. Other animals near them became more relaxed.



Passage 1

Nature on display in american zoos - By Elizabeth Hanson

The first zoo in the United States opened in Philadelphia in 1874, followed by the Cincinnati Zoo the next year. By 1940 there were zoos in more than one hundred American cities. The Philadelphia Zoo was more thoroughly planned and better financed than most of the hundreds of zoos that would open later but in its landscape and its mission - to both educate and entertain - it embodied ideas about how to build a zoo that stayed consistent for decades. The zoos came into existence in the late nineteenth century during the transition of the United States from a rural and agricultural nation to an industrial one.

The population more than doubled between 1860 and 1900. As more middle-class people lived in cities, they began seeking new relationships with the natural world as a place for recreation, self-improvement, and spiritual renewal. Cities established systems of public parks, and nature tourism - already popular - became even more fashionable with the establishment of national parks. Nature was thought to be good for people of all ages and classes. Nature study was incorporated into school curricula, and natural history collecting became an increasingly popular pastime.

At the same time, the fields of study which were previously thought of as 'natural history' grew into separate areas such as taxonomy, experimental embryology and genetics, each with its own experts and structures. As laboratory research gained prestige in the zoology departments of American universities, the gap between professional and amateur scientific activities widened. Previously, natural history had been open to amateurs and was easily popularized, but research required access to microscopes and other equipment in laboratories, as well as advanced education.

The new zoos set themselves apart from traveling animal shows by stating their mission as education and the advancement of science, in addition to recreation. Zoos presented zoology for the non­specialist, at a time when the intellectual distance between amateur naturalists and laboratory- oriented zoologists was increasing. They attracted wide audiences and quickly became a feature of every growing and forward-thinking city. They were emblems of civic pride on a level of importance with art museums, natural history museums and botanical gardens.

Most American zoos were founded and operated as part of the public parks administration. They were dependent on municipal funds, and they charged no admission fee. They tended to assemble as many different mammal and bird species as possible, along with a few reptiles, exhibiting one or two specimens of each, and they competed with each other to become the first to display a rarity, like a rhinoceros. In the constant effort to attract the public to make return visits, certain types of display came in and out of fashion; for example, dozens of zoos built special islands for their large populations of monkeys. In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration funded millions of dollars of construction at dozens of zoos. For the most part, the collections of animals were organised by species in a combination of enclosures according to a fairly loose classification scheme.

Although many histories of individual zoos describe the 1940s through the 1960s as a period of stagnation, and in some cases there was neglect, new zoos continued to be set up all over the country. In the 1940s and 1950s, the first zoos designed specifically for children were built, some with the appeal of farm animals. An increasing number of zoos tried new ways of organizing their displays. In addition to the traditional approach of exhibiting like kinds together, zoo planners had a new approach of putting animals in groups according to their continent of origin and designing exhibits showing animals of particular habitats, for example, polar, desert, or forest. During the 1960s, a few zoos arranged some displays according to animal behavior; the Bronx Zoo, for instance, opened its World of Darkness exhibit of nocturnal animals. Paradoxically, at the same time as zoo displays began incorporating ideas about the ecological relationships between animals, big cats and primates continued to be displayed in bathroom-like cages lined with tiles.

By the 1970s, a new wave of reform was stirring. Popular movements for environmentalism and animal welfare called attention to endangered species and to zoos that did not provide adequate care for their animals. More projects were undertaken by research scientists and zoos began hiring full-time vets as they stepped up captive breeding programs. Many zoos that had been supported entirely by municipal budgets began recruiting private financial support and charging admission fees. In the prosperous 1980s and 1990s, zoos built realistic 'landscape immersion' exhibits, many of them around the theme of the tropical rainforest and, increasingly, conservation moved to the forefront of zoo agendas.

Although zoos were popular and proliferating institutions in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, historians have paid little attention to them. Perhaps zoos have been ignored because they were, and remain still, multi-purpose institutions, and as such they fall between the categories of analysis that historians often use. In addition, their stated goals of recreation, education, the advancement of science, and protection of endangered species have often conflicted. Zoos occupy a difficult middle ground between science and showmanship, high culture and low, remote forests and the cement cityscape, and wild animals and urban people.

Questions 1-7: T/F/NG

  1. The concepts on which the Philadelphia zoo was based soon became unfashionable.
  2. The opening of zoos coincided with a trend for people to live in urban areas.
  3. During the period when many zoos were opened, the study of natural history became more popular in universities than other scientific subjects.
  4. Cities recognized that the new zoos were as significant an amenity as museums.
  5. Between 1940 and 1960 some older zoos had to move to new sites in order to expand.
  6. In the 1970s new ways of funding zoos were developed.
  7. There has been serious disagreement amongst historians about the role of the first zoos.

Questions 8-13: NO MORE THAN ONE WORD

  • Up to 1940


  • 1940s and 1950s


  • 1960s
  • 1970s


  • 1980s onwards

More mammals and birds exhibited than 8................................

9......... ............. were very popular animals in many zoos at one time.

Zoos started exhibiting animals according to their 10……….and where they came from.

Some zoos categorized animals by 11.................

12...................... were employed following protests about

animal care.

The importance of 13................... became greater


Passage 3:

The effects of light on plant and animal species

Light is important to organisms for two different reasons. Firstly, it is used as a cue for the timing of daily and seasonal rhythms in both plane and animals, and secondly, it is used to assist growth in plants.

Breeding in most organisms occurs during a part of the year only, and so a reliable cue is needed to trigger breeding behaviour. Day length is an excellent cue because it provides a perfectly predictable pattern of change within the year. In the temperate zone in spring, temperatures fluctuate greatly from day to day, but day length increases steadily by a predictable amount. The seasonal impact of day length on physiological responses is called photoperiodism, and the amount of experimental evidence for this phenomenon is considerable. For example, some species of birds' breeding can be induced even in midwinter simply by increasing day length artificially (Wolfson 1964). Other examples of photoperiodism occur in plants. A short-day plant flowers when the day is less than a certain critical length. A long-day plant flowers after a certain critical day length is exceeded. In both cases, the critical day length differs from species to species. Plants which flower after a period of vegetative growth, regardless of photoperiod, are known as day-neutral plants.

Breeding seasons in animals such as birds have evolved to occupy the part of the year in which offspring have the greatest chances of survival. Before the breeding season begins, food reserves must be built up to support the energy cost of reproduction, and to provide for young birds both when they are in the nest and after fledging. Thus many temperate-zone birds use the increasing day lengths in spring as a cue to begin the nesting cycle, because this is a point when adequate food resources will be assured.

The adaptive significance of photoperiodism in plants is also clear. Short-day plants that flower in spring in the temperate zone are adapted to maximising seedling growth during the growing season. Long-day plants are adapted for situations that require fertilization by insects, or a long period of seed ripening. Short-day plant that flower in the autumn in the temperate zone are able to build up food reserves over the growing season and over winter as seeds. Day-neutral plants have an evolutionary advantage when the connection between the favourable period for reproduction and day length is much less certain. For example, desert annuals germinate, flower and seed whenever suitable rainfall occurs, regardless of the day length.

The breeding season of some plants can be delayed to extraordinary lengths. Bamboos are perennial grasses that remain in a vegetative state for many years and then suddenly flower, fruit and die (Evans 1976). Every bamboo of the species Chusquea abietifolio on the island of Jamaica flowered, set seed and died during 1884. The next generation of bamboo flowered and died between 1916 and 1918, which suggests a vegetative cycle of about 31 years. The climatic trigger for this flowering cycle is not-yet-known, but the adaptive significance is clear. The simultaneous production of masses of bamboo seeds (in some cases lying I2 to I5 centimetres deep on the ground) is more than all the seed-eating animals can cope with at the time, so that some seeds escape being eaten and grow up to form the next generation (Evans 1976).

The second reason light is important to organisms is that it is essential for photosynthesis. This is the process by which plants use energy from the sun to convert carbon from soil or water into organic material for growth. The rate of photosynthesis in a plant can be measured by calculating the rate of its uptake of carbon. There is a wide range of photosynthetic responses of plants to variations in light intensity. Some plants reach maximal photosynthesis at one-quarter full sunlight, and others, like sugarcane, never reach a maximum, but continue to increase photosynthesis rate as the light intensity rises.

Plants, in general, can be divided into two groups: shade-tolerant species and shade-intolerant species. This classification is commonly used in forestry and horticulture. Shade-tolerant planes have lower photosynthetic rates and hence have lower growth rates than those of shade-intolerant species. Plant species become adapted to living in a certain kind of habitat, and in the process evolve a series of characteristics that prevent them from occupying other habitats. Grime ( 1966) suggests that light may be one of the major components directing these adaptations. For example, eastern hemlock seedlings are shade-tolerant. They can survive in the forest understorey under very low light levels because they have a low photosynthetic rate. 

Questions 27-33: T/F/NG

27 There is plenty of scientific evidence to support photoperiodism.  
28 Some types of bird can be encouraged to breed out of season.  
29 Photoperiodism is restricted to certain geographic areas.  
30 Desert annuals are examples of long-day plants.  
31 Bamboos flower several times during their life cycle.  
32 Scientists have yet to determine the cue for Chusquea abietifolia's seasonal rhythm.  
33 Eastern hemlock is a fast-growing plant.  

Questions 34-40:  NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS
34 Day length is a useful cue for breeding in areas where ........................................... are unpredictable.
35 Plants which do not respond to light levels are referred to as ........................................... .
36 Birds in temperate climates associate longer days with nesting and the availability of .................
37 Plants that Bower when days are long often depend on ....................... to help them reproduce.
38 Desert annuals respond to ........................................... as a signal for reproduction.
39 There is no limit to the photosynthetic rate in plants such as ........................................... .
40 Tolerance to shade is one criterion for the ......................... of plants in forestry and horticulture.