Honey Badger or Ratel (Mellivora capensis)

The honey badger is a member of the weasel family with a reputation as a honey lover. As a predator he feeds with many other things but let themselves by attention-getting behavior of a bird, the Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator) lure to go after the nests of wild bees. The honey badger breaks the nest open and eat the honey, after he's finished and leaves, the bird feeds on the larvae from the combs, the wax and remaining honey. A symbiotic relationship. (a form of cooperation with mutual benefit.) A convincing proof of this story is difficult to obtain, resulting in a discussion that will be some time on.


The honey badger has the typical construction of the badger. A solid, long body on short, powerful legs. The front legs are wide with heavy claws of more than 25 mm. The hind legs are narrower with a smaller claw just over 15 mm. The head is robust, with small eyes and ears, but the jaws are powerful. Shoulders and neck are very muscular. For comparable predators, he is blessed with more brains. His skin is thick and loose around his body. The hair is rough and short, with the exception of the softer abdominal hairs. The white edged, light gray color runs from the forehead over the head and back to the tail. If a garment of light which lies on a black animal, because head, feet, flanks and belly are black. Although there is some variation in the color scheme, till completely black (melanistic) specimens, found mainly in African rainforests. With an average weight of between 9 and 13 kg at a length of around 80 cm, and a tail of 16 to 30 cm, it is a compact, powerful appearance.


The honey badger largely inhabits Africa and western and southern Asia. (The Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, and from Kazakhstan to India.) In addition, he avoids areas too hot and dry. In the central Sahara desert he is missing. (IUCN, 2014) just south of the true Sahara, eg in Termit he lives in true desert areas. He lives in mountains, rising from 2600 in the west, High Atlas, Morocco to 4,000 meters in the east, Bale mountains, Ethiopia In North Africa, only the extreme west is occupied. Historically it is known from southern Morocco and southwestern Algeria.

Geographical variation

With such a large range, it would be likely that there is some geographical variation existed. Yet that is genetically not so clearly defined. Color and size vary, but the value of such variables is under discussion.


The honey badger inhabits a wide range of areas, from rainforests in the Congo to the edges of arid deserts (Namibia) and the Sahara. Thereby, they are generalists.

Food and hunting technique

As a predator Honey badgers are pure opportunists, living of all kinds of foods available. Which can vary in size from insects till young ungulates. And though they generally manage to find their own food, they don't feel to good to take over prey of other predators or if necessary to eat bait. Research has shown that up to 60 species were used. That makes his food spectrum very wide. Honey is taken in the appropriate season and only as a supplement to his diet. Using his good sense of smell the most food is found, and where necessary with the powerful claws of the forelegs easily excavated. Honey Badgers are mainly nocturnal. In colder periods, the day is also used. Additionally, they are capable to reach desired locations. By swimming as well as climbing up into treetops. Honey Badgers let's not fail quickly. Impressive is their tolerance to poison where they prey like the highly poisonous puff adder do not avoid.


Reproduction in honey badgers is slow. The litter is not very large with 1 to 4 young (average 2). Born after a gestation period of 6 months. Reproduction in honey badgers is slow. The litter is not very large with 1 to 4 young (average 2). Born after a gestation period of 6 months. The young stay with their mother about 14 months before they are independent. This explains that the intervals between successive litters are long. However, honey badger do not have a special breeding season and therefore cups may be born throughout the year. While honey badgers can live long, to 26 years in captivity. A period in which different litters are possible. Was it not that they become on average only 7 years old in the wild. This makes them vulnerable to threats caused by human hunting, poisoning, poaching and loss of habitat.

Cup development

The cups are born naked and blind in an underground den. Here they stay on average of about five days, to be moved after by their mother in the mouth. This movements are done on a regular basis until they themselves are able to accompany their mother to yet another den. The development is slow. After two months, the eyes are opened and the first excursions take place at an age of around 3 months. By that time they have their first, brown coat exchanged for the typical honey badger colors. But still more white. The cups reach adult size in about eight months. Observations of several (apparently adult) honey badgers are therefore almost always a mother with her cups. Because their coordinating slowly progress and all the skills they need to hunt efficiently underground rodents, poisonous snakes and insects, they certainly remain another half year depending on the mother. A period in which they need to learn and practice by trial and error. Rarely the cups are able before the age of 14 months to live independently.

Behavioral and social system

Honey Badgers are solitary animals that inhabit vast areas up to 500 square kilometers Although there may be several animals living in the same area, who keep each other informed about their presence by scent marking. Typically, this functions as a separation in time, so that undesired encounters can be avoided. When a woman is in her fertile period, she will attract different males by smell. Eventually, she mates in more than half of the cases, with the most dominant male. Although there are cups born, who can be traced to other contacts. They are nomadic animals with just a den in the fixed time the cups are very young. After that the cups are frequently moved by the female, when able to walk, the cups travel with their mother around and sleeping in a shelter at the end of their journey. The father plays no role after conception

Relationship with humans

Keeping pets by humans is triggering an intolerant attitude towards predators. This usually leads to prosecution and suppression of predators. An animal with a low reproductive rate can thus be inflicted a heavy blow which leads to possible extinction locally. At the other hand, a predator in the area, offers an inexpensive way to control rodents and can be very useful. Combined with pet protective measures it can be profitable to live together. Even the fact that honey badgers may cause damage to the beekeeping does not mean the end of co-existence. The beehives or cabinets can be put with some measures outside the reach of the Honey Badger. There remain many food items across as insects, scorpions, snakes and rodents, which we do not like to see around the house. Recently, the honey badger new prestige acquired by the proclamation until bravest animal. He behaves indeed quite fearless. Therefore, it is unfortunately often killed: in pursuit, he defends himself so violently that people motivated by fear try to kill the animal as soon as possible.


The honey badger is protected in the working area of the NABCS (Morocco, Algeria) but is anyway (unintentionally) contested by no discriminatory methods such as locks and poison (K. de Smet personal comment. 2014) Education about its useful function and preventative measures to protect animals and bees have to be the first answer at problems. NABCS can and will play a role in this. Preventive measures are still weak. By placing hives on a pole with cuff can be made simply unattainable for honey badgers. Regarding pets, measurements will often need to be tailor made. Some knowledge combined with common sense can be very effective. But through research and information on the effectiveness and costs of protective measurements, we can realize the aim to bring back the use of traps and poison, many more animals can benefit from it


Carnivores of the World - Luuk Hunter. Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford. Handbook of Mammals of the World. Begg et al.