Honey badgers get their name from their favourite food. Also know as ratels, they forage for honey and eat it straight out of the beehive! These highly intelligent mammals are found primarily in Africa, Southwest Asia and India.
Photo: Roheet Karoo.
Honey badgers have fairly long but broad bodies. Males may grow up to double the size of females, and they weigh anywhere between nine and 14 kg. They have a small, flat head with small eyes and ears, and their fur is coarse and longer on their sturdy little legs. Their thick skin is remarkably loose, and helps them escape from a predator’s jaws! Honey badgers are feisty creatures and are known to scare off animals much larger than themselves such as leopards and even venomous snakes. Their tough skin serves as good armour against bee and scorpion stings too!
Honey badgers are omnivorous and primarily feed on insects, frogs, lizards, snakes, small antelope, eggs and occasionally poultry. They may supplement this meat-heavy diet with various fruits and vegetables. Highly adaptable, ratels are distributed across various habitats from semi-desert landscapes to rainforests. These skilled diggers create burrows that usually includes a long passage leading to a nesting chamber. Sometimes, they may use the abandoned burrow of other animals. The female usually gives birth to a single cub that is born blind and hairless. The cubs remain with the mothers for about 14 months before setting off on their own.
Honey badgers that live close to human habitation frequently raid poultry pens and bee apiaries. This makes them a pest to farmers and beekeepers who regularly kill them on sight. Apart from being directly persecuted by farmers and people living in close proximity to them, they are also indirectly killed when they ingest poisoned meat laid out for other wildlife.
First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXXV, No. 5, May 2015.