Species Profile: Honey Badger
By Adelie Carstens (Cal Polytech)
*Spoken to the rhythm of the Theme song for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air*
Now this is the story all about how the Honey Badger got the badest name in town. I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, and I’ll tell you ’bout what I know about the Honey Badger.
Inside little burrows, born ‘n raised, out on the savanna where they spend most of their days. You could see them outside, growling at you, foraging for berries right-side of the pool.
When a couple of hogs, they were up to no good, started squealing loud in the Ratel-hood. They got a little too close and the Ratel gets mad, said “One more step and I’ll bite you dead!!”
They waddle when they walk, kinda pigeon toed, sniff at every hole—don’t matter if its closed! If anything I could say that this animal is rare, and I thought, Hey…species account…”I got it! Honey Badger!!”
Mellivora capensis, also known as the Honey Badger or Ratel
Shoulder height is between 9-10 inches, 2 feet long, weighing in at 18-30lbs. Short and stocky stature, very similar to the American Badger. Broad plantigrade feet, with powerful curved claws (3.5cm), curved for foraging and burrowing. Head shape is wide, with a short muzzle, a massive reinforced skull with powerful jaw muscles and robust teeth—adapted for crushing not sheering. Ears are very close to head, and fold over while burrowing. Coat is very coarse, and short in length, with very loose thick (6mm) skin underneath. Coloration of animals varies with each individual but on average a white crown reaches from the top of the head towards the tip of the tapered tail. Dorsal color darkens with age, young start as a rusty brown and then change to a dark black grey coloration for most of their adult life.
The Ratel is found in both Asia and Africa in most habitats from dense forests to dry open savannas, badgers are said to be ubiquitous south of the Sahara. In this habitat the ratel acts as an opportunistic omnivore, eating insects, berries, fruits, carrion, and small animals. Using its nose and paws to find its food the badger is known to be able to walk up to 35km in a single night. Sometimes the Honey Badger gets assistance in finding food from small Honey Guides, a bird closely related to the woodpecker. The Honey guide will find a badger and signal the animal of its presence indicating to the badger that the Honey Guide wishes to be followed. Badgers will follow Honey Guides for up to 2km trying to find a beehive, and once a hive is found the Badger will enjoy its spoils and leave the exposed bee wax for the Honey Guide. When the Honey Badger finds a beehive it will fumigate out the bees by inverting its anal pouch, much like a bee farmer, and knock the bees unconscious. Honey badgers are one of the few predators that will eat bee larvae, or honey. Honey Badgers are also one of the few mammals in the Sahara that don’t have any predators. Living by the “the best defense is a good offense” philosophy, the bigger animals in the Ratel’s home range quickly learn to keep a safe distance from this aggressive animal. The Ratel is known for its aggressive behavior, and immunity to snake venom, to some extent. So if you see this small stocky animal, don’t be fooled by the cute exterior!!
Photo from: http://wordfromthesavanna.com/tag/honey-badger