Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis)

The Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) also known as the Ratel is a medium-sized mustelid with a puppy-like head, black sides and underparts and a grey-white back. Their coats have a broad and course saddle of grey hair running from above the eyes to the base of their tail, which contrasts starkly with their black underparts. They have a low slung body, with tiny ears and stout legs, and have massive claws that are an adaptation for digging and spending time under ground, but are also formidable weapons. It is primarily terrestrial but can climb, especially when attracted by honey. It travels by a jog-trot but is tireless and trails its prey until the prey is run to the ground.

It is an adaptable creature, eating whatever comes its way — it’s said that they’ve been known to kill buffaloes by running underneath them and biting off their testicles which, if true, is certainly taking opportunism to a wasteful extreme.

When not Bobbiting bovines, the Honey Badger occasionally indulges in a symbiotic relationship with a bird called the greater honeyguide: the honeyguide takes the Honey Badger to a beehive, which the honey badger then tears open, allowing the honeyguide to feed on the scraps.

Honey Badger are widespread in Uganda, but uncommon and rarely seen. Other mustelids found in Uganda include the zorilla (or striped polecat) and the striped weasel.

Mellivora capensis honey badger in Uganda

Honey badgers are solitary and nomadic. They occupy a large range, moving around daily to forage. Female honey badgers tend to travel shorter distances per day, around 10 km, while males may forage for as much as 27 km per day.

Males have been 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 have been known to defecate in holes and mark with their urine or anal scent glands to indicate to other animals that their burrow is nearby.

Honey badgers are notoriously aggressive animals. Males in particular defend mates with incredible ferocity if threatened. Male interactions become aggressive if one of the males attempts to intrude into the marked burrows, they 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 the majority of the diet is carnivorous, honey badgers also eat fruit, roots, and bulbs. Bee hives are preyed upon because the honey badger also likes to devour the bee larvae and honey inside. They have been known to turn to carrion as a food source if other nourishment is scarce.

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