10 May 2010

Honey Badger At Tygerberg

I was very excited to find these images of a Honey Badger (Ratel) on my "recovered" Bushnell camera. I saw evidence of a lot of digging near the spot I selected for the camera, but I wasn't sure what animal was doing all the work and hoped it would show itself. And show itself it did! I got some great shots of the Honey Badger grooming itself in front of the camera. The infrared images from the Bushnell aren't that great, but it makes up for it by having a quick reset time between photos and it can even record video at night.

Honey Badger (Ratel) arriving at the spot and checking out the camera

Honey Badgers have a silver-grey back which extends to the top of their heads. The lower half of their bodies are black. They often carry their short bushy tail upright when walking. Their tracks can be identified by the long and strong claws of the front feet. The thumb is clearly visible in the print (the track shows all five digits clearly). They are about 30cm in height and 95cm in length. Males are on average a third larger than larger than females.

They have a wide habitat tolerance and are widespread across Southern Africa. Honey Badgers can be found throughout Africa, Arabia and Western Asia, including India. Even though they are widely distributed they are not common anywhere and are even considered rare in some areas.

Relaxing a bit in front of the camera

They spend most of their time on the ground, but are good climbers when the need arises. They will use rock crevices for shelter, but are powerful diggers and will dig refuges for themselves. They dig up a lot of their prey, such as rodents and scorpions. They can dig up to 60 holes per night while looking for food. They eat a wide variety of food, but invertebrates and rodents are the most important part of their diet. They are not dependant on water. They often feed together with some species of birds or Black Backed Jackal.

Honey Badgers are usually found alone, but they also walk in pairs or small family groups. They often move along tracks and roads. They are mostly active at night (nocturnal), but can also sometimes be found active during anytime of the day. In the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park they change from being nocturnal in summer to being diurnal in winter. This is done to cope with the very high temperature on summer days and very low temperatures on winter nights.

Nothing better than a good scratch...

The badgers have been named the most fearless animal in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is also believed that Cheetah cubs mimic the appearance of a Honey Badger as part of their survival strategy.

Honey Badgers are courageous animals. They usually keep to themselves and are shy and retiring in nature, but they can occasionally become extremely aggressive (without provoking them). These animals are very tough and and can become very aggressive. They will even attack an Elephant if they feel threatened. They can produce a foul-smelling excretion from a pair of anal glads. However the Honey Badger is not as prone as the Striped Polecat to use this defence mechanism and will much more likely attack its aggressor. Their skin is very thick and loose. It is said that if a dog bites any part of it the animal can turn around inside its skin and bite back (this is regarded to be true within certain limits). They always come of best when attacked by dog and the dog's teeth seldom penetrate their skin.

Honey Badgers appear to have some level of resistance against scorpion and bee stings. They also appear to have a remarkable resistance against many extremely venomous snakes. After being bitten by a snake that would kill most large animals they appear to only experience some degree of pain and then just sleep it off. Waking up after a few hours without any serious side effects.

During intraspecific fighting each individual tries to invite the other to bite first, because which ever one bites first is at a disadvantage. The second individual will lunge at the first one to bite and aim for the softer skin of the abdomen. It has been recorded that in captivity normally docile individuals will develop "fury moods" and become dangerous, but will just as suddenly return to being calm and docile.

After the grooming session this badger is probably on his way to add some more holes to the slope 

The name Honey Badger comes from their habit of plundering bee hives for the honey and bee larvae. Their other common name is “Ratel” which is Afrikaans for rattle or honeycomb.

Chris & Tilde Stuart (2008). Veldgids tot Soogdiere van Suider-Afrika. Kaapstad: Struik Uitgewers. 142.
John D. Skinner & Christian T. Chimimba (2005). The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Cape Town: Cambridge University Press. 501-504.


  1. I love your reclining honey badger.
    It's good to see your camera survived it's porcupine encounter. I'm a bit surprised they didn't destroy it entirely(big teeth!).

  2. he he, yes that shot is my favourite out of the sequence of 16 images :)

  3. CONGRATULATIONS!!! What a wonderful surprise, and such a special critter. It will be hard to match that catch in the future, but since you seem to have the right stuff for this hobby I would like to suggest that you go after another one of my favorite mammals -- the aardwolf.

  4. Thanks Codger :) I'll be very happy if I find an Aardwolf, but for the moment any termite eater will do :P (Aardwolf, Bat-Eared Fox, Aardvark)