The honey badger (Mellivora capensis), also called the ratel, is a mammal native to Southwest Asia, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent.
Due to its occurrence in a variety of habitats and wide range, it is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
It is the only known species in the genus Mellivora and the only member of the mustelid subfamily Mellivorinae. The honey badger bears more anatomical similarities to weasels than other badger species.
It is primarily a carnivorous animal. Honey badgers have few natural predators because of their strength, thick skin, and ferocious defensive abilities.
Table of Contents
- Scientific classification
- Habitat and distribution
|Indian ratel (M. c. indica)||Western Middle Asia, eastward to Amu Darya, northward to the Ustyurt Plateau, Iran (except the southwestern part), Afghanistan, western India and western Pakistan.|
|Cape ratel (M. c. capensis)||Southwestern and South Africa|
|Nepalese ratel (M. c. inaurita)||Nepal|
|White-backed ratel (M. c. leuconota)||Former French Congo, southern Morocco, and West Africa|
|Black ratel (M. c. cottoni)||Northeastern Congo and Ghana|
|Lake Chad ratel (M. c. concisa)||Sahel, Sudan zones, and Somaliland|
|Speckled ratel (M. c. signata)||Sierra Leone|
|Ethiopian ratel (M. c. abyssinica)||Ethiopia|
|Persian ratel (M. c. wilsoni)||Iraq and southwestern Iran|
|Kenyan ratel (M. c. maxwelli)||Kenya|
|Arabian ratel (M. c. pumilio)||Southern Arabia and Hadhramaut|
|Turkmenian ratel (M. c. buechneri)||Turkmenistan|
The honey badger has a relatively long body but is broad and thick-set across the back. The skin around the neck is 0.24 in (6 millimeters) thick, which is an adaptation for fighting conspecifics.
The honey badger has a short muzzle and a short and flathead. They have legs that are short and sturdy, with five toes on each foot. The tail is covered in long hair and is short-sized. Honey badgers possess strong claws on each foot.
Honey badgers are regarded as the largest mustelids in Africa. An adult honey badger measure 9.1 – 11.0 in (23 – 28 cm) in shoulder height and 22 to 30 in (55 to 77 cm) in body length, with the tail adding another 4.7 to 11.8 in (12 to 30 cm). Males are larger than females. In Africa, males weigh 20 – 35 lb (9 – 16 kg) while females weigh 11 – 22 lb (5 – 10 kg) on average.
The total mean weight of adult honey badger from different areas is between 14 – 26 lb (6.4 – 12 kg), with a median of roughly 20 lb (9 kg). It is the third-largest badger, after the hog badger and European badger, and fourth-largest still existing terrestrial mustelid.
Skull length is 5.5 to 5.7 in (13.9 to 14.5 cm) in males and 5.1 in (13 cm) for females. Honey badgers share a similar trait with mongooses and hyenas, which is the possession of an anal pouch that is said to be suffocating which helps calm bees when raiding beehives. The braincase of a honey badger is said to be larger than that of dogs.
The winter fur is long, (being 1.6 to 2.0 in (40 to 50 mm) long on the lower back), and also consists of coarse, sparse, bristle-like hairs, with little or no underfur. Hairs are even sparser on the belly, flanks, and groin.
The summer fur is shorter (being only 0.59 in (15 mm) long on the back) and even sparser. The lower body and head are pure black. A large white band is seen across the upper body, from the top of the head to the tail.
Honey badgers are solitary animals and have been sighted to hunt in pairs during the mating season in Africa. It uses old burrows of warthog, aardvark, and termite mounds.
It has specialised claws for digging into hard ground. The burrows are usually only 3.3 to 9.8 ft (1 to 3 m) long, with usually only one entry.
Honey badgers are notorious for its ferocity, strength, and toughness. When escape is impossible, it is known to savagely and fearlessly attack almost any other species and occasionally repelling predators like hyena and lion.
Porcupine quills, bee stings, and animal bites rarely penetrate its skin.
Not much is known about the honey badger’s breeding habits. The gestation period is believed to last six months, which results in two cubs.
The cubs are born blind but gain their sight after a few days. The lifespan of captive individuals is approximately 24 years, while the lifespan of individuals in the wild is unknown.
The honey badger makes a hoarse “khrya-ya-ya-ya” sound. Honey badgers vocalise through plaintive whines. They scream like bear cubs when confronting dogs.
Honey badgers raid beehives in search of both honey and bee larvae. It feeds on frogs, insects, turtles, tortoises, rodents, lizards, birds, snakes, and eggs.
It also eats roots, berries, and bulbs. It devours every part of its prey, including hair, skin, flesh, bone, and feathers. In Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, some studies indicate that honey badger preyed on skinks and geckos (47.9% of prey species), mice, and gerbils (39.7% of prey).
They are also observed to attack domestic goats and sheep as well as black mambas.
Habitat and distribution
The honey badger occurs from the West Cape, South Africa, through most of sub-Saharan Africa, to southern Morocco, and southwestern Algeria. It also ranges outside Africa Arabia, Iran, the Indian Peninsula, western Asia, and Turkmenistan.
It ranges from sea level to as much as 4,000 m above sea level in Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains and 2,600 m in the Moroccan High Atlas.