Honey badger, a truly ferocious mammal


With its hard and resistant skin venom, the honey badger gives a hard time to Africa’s largest predators. Under his white cloak, hides a furious little monster. Meeting with a mustelid that nothing impresses.

Two-tone coat for honey badger

Honey badger (Mellivora capensis), or Cape zorilla, is a carnivorous mammal belonging to the mustelidae family. This animal is the only member of the genus Mellivora. Its coat is black on the belly, legs, tail and lower part of the head up to the eyes. A band white starts at the forehead and ends at the end of the tail, covering almost the entire width of the back. Its small ears stand out just in the middle of the hairs. The honey badger’s hind legs are slightly longer than the front ones and equipped with claws about 4 cm long. This stocky-bodied animal is a maximum of 80 centimeters long for a weight of 9 to 14 kg, the female being slightly more petite.

Honey badger, a ferocious animal

The skin tough honey badger is several millimeters thick giving it a good protection against porcupine stings, bee stings and powerful paws. Theelasticity of its body allows it to twist easily so that, seized by the neck by a predator, it is able to turn around and bite in turn. His ability to run backward allows him to escape his attackers to better attack them afterwards. Its long claws sharp easily tear its prey and its powerful jaw can easily crush a turtle shell. In addition, its metabolism makes it insensitive to venoms. Bitten by a snake, he will only be weakened. And if he loses consciousness, he will get up fresh like a roach! Its amazing tenacity backs off lions, leopards, crocodiles and other cobras.

Honey badger, not just African

Honey badger is widely distributed throughoutAfrica sub-Saharan except in Madagascar. It is also found from northernIndia to the Arabian Peninsula (Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.). The mustelid occupies various habitats, both desert and semi-desert (steppes), various types of savannah and wooded areas, scrubland and sparse forests. The species lives mainly on land but knows how to climb trees to find its food. This very animal opportunistic is able to survive in different climates.

Honey badger

Omnivorous, the badger swallows about sixty different animal species. Its diet consists mainly of preys that it digs up with its claws, such as termites, scorpions and earthworms. It also eats spiders, lizards, hares, porcupines, birds, snakes or even turtles after breaking their shell. The badger does not hesitate to attack targets larger than itself, such as wildebeest or antelopes. Lover of honey, it scares away bees by giving off a foul odor with its anal glands then plunder their hives. To hydrate, the mustelid consumes fruits like tsama, a variety of melon filled with 99% water.

The badger, lonely and territorial

The honey badger is a solitary creature who exceptionally consents to live in coupleor even within a small group of three members of his family. The male evolves over a vast territory of about 500 hectares and is very aggressive towards animals – whatever their species – which enter its domain. Very discreet by nature, he is mainly nocturnal. During the day, he hides at the bottom of a burrow of an aardvark (an African anteater mammal) or that of another animal. If he does not find a shelter at his disposal, he will dig his own refuge. We rarely meet the honey badger during the day, except in weather covered and rainy.

Ratel: a long emancipation

Honey badger leaves its loneliness in times of reproduction only. After 6 months of gestation, the female gives birth to 1 or 2 young which remain hidden in the burrow until their weaning around 3 months. Mother raises alone her offspring and protects her for another 12 to 16 months or more. The learning of independence is relatively long and marked by a high rate of mortality (half of newborns do not reach adulthood). Juveniles are sexually mature around 1 year old.

Honey badger, widespread

Currently, honey badger is not considered an endangered species. It is also classified in the category “minor concern”By the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, in some parts of the world it is trapped by poachers (for its skin and claws used in traditional medicine), breeders (following the theft of poultry or small livestock) and beekeepers, because of the damage it can cause to beehives. Some governments have put in place measures to protection and / or placed them in National parks. The longevity of honey badger is about 20 years, up to 26 years in captivity.

Photo credit: Matej Batha