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Physical Address
Plot 239, Kameeldrif
Pretoria
Cr Moloto & Tambotie Str, Pretoria

PO Box 906701
Magalieskruin
0150, Preotria

Tel:  084 663 9233

 

The Honeybadger

Within the bee-keeping industry across Africa the honey badger or ratel (Mellivora capensis) is known as one of the main culprits for breaking into hives for brood and honey and its generic name Mellivora which is derived from the Latin mel (honey) and voro (to devour) reflects this. It is however seldom seen and until recently little was known about all aspects of its biology although it has a formidable reputation as an aggressive, dangerous beast that is difficult to handle or deter once its mind is set  on something. After 4 years of studying this animal in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park a more complete picture of the species has emerged.

In protected areas they are often active during the day particularly in winter but seem to be mainly nocturnal in areas where they come into contact with man. Despite their name, honey and brood are not their main diet, they are generalist carnivores that eat a wide variety of food ranging in size from insects to black-backed jackal pups and it is small rodents (mice, gerbils) small reptiles (lizards, geckoes) and snakes (poisonous and non-poisonous species) that form the bulk of their diet. Most of their food is caught by digging although as beekeepers know they are also good climbers  and may raid bird nests and bee hives. At least in Southern Africa, they have no defined breeding season and may have cubs all year around. Only one or rarely two cubs are born at a time and they stay with their mothers for over a year before they are able to hunt for themselves. When two badgers are seen they are much more likely to be a mother and her full grown cub than a male-female pair as male badgers play no role in rearing the cubs and are only seen with females during mating. Their reputation for being invincible is exaggerated as they are frequently killed by leopard, lion and man and avoid confrontation with these enemies where possible. As they are slow runners they rely on their formidable display when cornered and this includes a fearsome, rattle/growl and bad smelling scent which they release from their anal glands as polecats and skunks also do. For more information on the Honey badger see www.honeybadger.com

Request for Information

For the last four years (1996-1999) we have been studying honey badgers in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (previously known as the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park) and we are currently attempting to collate all known information on the species. We are particularly interested in understanding and quantifying the damage that badgers cause to the apiary industry. If badgers break into your hives or you have any comments, observations or questions about Honey badgers please e-mail us at ratel@honeybadger.co.za. In addition we are collecting information on the genetic and morphological variation of badgers throughout their range and would appreciate being informed of any specimens or skulls (particularly if the sex and location are known) that we could measure.

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