The Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis), also known as the Ratel, is a medium-sized mustelid with a puppy-like head, black sides, underparts, and a grey-white back. It’s related to skunks, otters, ferrets, and other badgers and gets its name from its fondness for feeding on honey and honeybee larvae.
Its coat has a broad and course saddle of grey hair running from above its eyes to the base of its tail, contrasting with its black underparts. It has a low-slung body, tiny ears and stout legs, and massive claws that are an adaptation for digging and spending time underground but are also formidable weapons.
It is primarily terrestrial but can climb, especially when attracted by honey. It travels by a tireless jog-trot and trails its prey until the prey runs to the ground.
It is an adaptable creature, eating whatever comes its way — it has been known to kill buffalo by running underneath them and biting off their testicles which, if true, is certainly taking opportunism to a wasteful extreme.
When not bob-biting bovines, the honey badger occasionally indulges in a symbiotic relationship with a bird called the greater honeyguide. The honeyguide leads the honey badger to a beehive, which it tears open, allowing the honeyguide to feed on the scraps.
Honey badgers are widespread in Uganda but uncommon and rarely seen. Other mustelids found in Uganda include the zorilla (or striped polecat) and the striped weasel.
Honey Badger Behaviour & Habits
Honey badgers are solitary and nomadic, occupying a large range and moving daily to forage. Female honey badgers travel shorter distances per day, around 10 km, while males may forage for as much as 27 km per day.
Males are known to meet up with other adult-sized honey badgers after foraging and exchange grunts while sniffing each other and rolling around in the sand. Honey badgers defecate in holes and mark them with their urine or anal scent glands to indicate to other animals that their burrow is nearby.
Honey badgers are notoriously aggressive animals, and males defend mates with incredible ferocity if threatened. Male interactions become aggressive if one of the males attempts to intrude into the marked burrows; they will begin a dominance dance to determine who will stay.
Honey badgers are opportunistic foragers; the composition of the diet varies with seasonal changes in prey abundance. They have a primarily carnivorous diet, frequently dining on eggs, small rodents, snakes, birds, and frogs.
While most of the diet is carnivorous, honey badgers eat fruit, roots, and bulbs. Bee hives are preyed upon because the honey badger likes to devour the bee larvae and honey inside. They turn to carrion as a food source if other nourishment is scarce.