Honey Badger

A honey badger gnaws on its meal.

The honey badger is one of Africa's hardiest small mammal species and a formidable opponent to any predator.

Honey Badger
Scientific Name:
Mellivora capensis
Weight :
9 to 16 kg(M) 5 to 10 kg (f)
Shoulder Height:
23 to 28 cm
Mating Season:
Throughout the year


The Honey badger is one of the fiercest and most ferocious animals on the planet, known for their toughness. Their fur is divided distinctly in two separate halves, with their back and the top of their head being a light grey to white color and one of these halves, and their underparts, legs, sides, tails and faces making up the other half which is a very dark shade of black. They aren’t the largest carnivorous animals in Africa, weighing only 9 to 16kg (20 to 35 lb) among males of the species, with females slightly smaller at 5 to 10kg (11 to 22lb).


Honey Badgers, or Ratels as the locals of South Africa call them, are found extensively throughout Africa, with many different variations in color, size, build and behavior creating a diverse range of sub-species. From parts of Morocco in north Africa, through the traitorous rain forests in Gabon, Cameroon and of course the Congo, and branching out to Eastern, Western and Southern African countries, most notably Zambia and the Victoria falls, Botswana and the Okavango and South Africa and Kruger National Park. This isn’t their whole range, as they can be found even outside the great African continent throughout Saudi Arabia and India. The sub-species found in the park, the Cape Honey Badger, is known for its size and is the largest of all different Badger sub-species.


Honey Badgers are considered as of least concern, and this is backed up by their extremely wide distribution, relative high adaptiveness and lower amounts of habitat loss compared to pickier animals that depend on major things within a habitat to survive. Despite this their populations are on the decrease. This may be due to their natural low population density combined with the new threat and competition human settlements pose in ecosystems they have settled. Their natural strong personalities and fearlessness have somehow proved to tribal doctors that they have medicinal importance over the years, and to this day they are hunted for this reason in rural parts of Africa.


Honey Badgers aren’t generally worried or bothered by the environment they find themselves in and can make a home out of every habitat. Deserts, rain forests, woodlands (including miombo woodlands) savannas and floodplains have all found themselves permanently occupied by a honey badger at one point or another and the resident’s stay has most probably been beneficial to other animals living there. Their diet of insects, scorpions and spiders, snakes of all sizes and of all toxicity levels is a very useful thing when competition for more desirable prey becomes a tiring daily task. The altitude limit of habitats they reside in is a staggering 4000m, which includes most mountainous areas.

Social Organization

Studies of behavior between male Honey Badgers, female Honey Badger and the two respective sexes mixed suggests that, like some small antelope species, they continuously mate with the same partner throughout their whole lives and live in these same pairs. They don’t generally fight over mates because of this reason, and stay pairs typically stay out of each other’s way as far as possible.

They have some kind of a home range or territory which they regularly and vigorously mark with their anal sac gland secretions. They don’t easily attack objects or animals that come near them, even vehicles that closely pass them by aren’t met by a growl or snort.

Social Behavior

Invertebrates are their main choice of food, and much of their day is occupied by finding or harvesting organisms like these from underground, between tree roots and under rocks. Honey is also a delicacy they like to indulge in, along with snake meat. The venom of some of the most toxic snakes of Africa have no life threatening effect on these animals, who hunt and kill snakes single handed all the time. Pairs communicate with each other and other animals in an olfactory, visual or vocal manner, using their scent glands, body language and strong voices which produce a range of different calls with different meanings. Typically calls are put out by young or adults when in distress or in a battle.


Ratels are very secretive maters and because of this reason there isn’t much known about their physical courtship and mating. What is known however is that a mother typically gives birth to a litter of 1 to 4 offspring, all of which will be born within denser, soft vegetation where they can be protected, groomed and fed by their mother in the first few weeks of their lives. The gestation period of a mother honey badger is around 6 months, quite a short period of time considering these animals regularly reach ages of above 20 or even 25 years of age, despite their size.

Anti-Predator Behavior

Honey Badgers weigh around the same as jackals and cat species like servals, but the amount of courage, ferocity and fearlessness which fuels their personalities has made them one of the few species in Africa to not actually have a natural enemy or predator to look out for. Even lions have been pushed aside by these animals, when 3 Ratels walked away with the kill made by a few adolescent and female lions of a pride. These two species are however the greatest match when they get into a fight. Lion males have killed a few Ratels over the years, but when they did they paid in full for the victory with a set of injuries which might take a few weeks to heal.

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