Honey Badgers: Is the appetite for bees their downfall?
These courageous little animals have more names than you can imagine. In addition to the scientific Mellivora Capensis, and the common name Honey Badger, they are also called a Ratel.
Fear is the one sense they lack. They have no natural enemies, and few animals will even attempt to attack it unless they are in groups. Even then, they rarely defeat this furry fighter. After all, badgers eat cobras for breakfast.
They’re endangered because of humans… particularly beekeepers. The damages done by ravaging the bee hives has cost the bee farmers a great deal of money. However, there are organizations that have devised several solutions to deter the killing of badgers.
How Nikela Helps
There is not a specific program targeting the Honey Badger at the moment. However, this is the most interesting and fierce mammal around and the more information available, the more understanding is gained.
Nikela has found that informing people about the habitat of all animals can reduce the human influences in the demise of species.
Facts About the African Honey Badger
They are solitary hunters, carnivores and have a reputation for being grumpy. They don’t even like the company of other badgers with the exception of their young. They roam the open ranges and take over the burrows of other animals or dig a temporary hole for the day. They don’t have dens like most animals.
Depending on the season they are nocturnal and can switch to diurnal at any time. The dominant males navigate their territory which is extensive and can cover up to 500 sq. km, yet they are known for traveling in groups when searching for females.
Their coloring is dark black with a gray and white stripe down the center of it. This white stripe changes with age. The hair is quite coarse in texture and covers the back and legs. These guys don’t walk they jaunt. They are bowlegged fierce diggers and have the claws to accomplish it. Their unusually stocky and muscular appearance is a reflection of their aggressive personality. Females will protect their young without reservation. The males are nearly twice the size of the females.
They get most of their liquid from a melon and rarely drink actual water. While they are carnivores, there isn’t much they won’t eat. The variety extends from small larvae to leguaans, crocodiles, and antelopes. The most venomous snakes won’t deter them. They pull puff adders and black mambas out of their homes and turn them into appetizers. They will even climb a tree to capture and consume a cobra.
Their name says it all, the honey eater of the Cape. It isn’t the honey they are after, they prefer the wax and grubs associated with breaking open a hive. This tasty treat is fodder for a symbiotic relationship with a little bird called a Honeyguide. The bird regularly leads the badger to the site, and while the badger is busy with grubs, the bird enjoys the honey.
The solitary life is what they prefer. In fact, the females mark the latrines to give notice to others of their presence in the area. They intentionally avoid each other. Males do sometimes gather in groups. They will kill and eat anything they want, they are aggressive. Don’t worry though, they are not completely alone. They have a curious relationship with birds. A minimum of five bird species maintains a reciprocal relationship with these fearless animals.
Their fearlessness has put them in the Guinness world record books.
The male badgers are not territorial but are protective of females for up to three days keeping her kidnapped and secluded while mating takes place. They belong to the Mustelid family and are in a sub species all their own. There is no actual breeding season, so they can mate any time of the year. The cubs are naked and blind when first born, and the male plays no part in parenting. The average litter is no more than 2 cubs and they remain with their mother until the age of 14 months or older. The coordination to hunt and dig takes over eight months for them to master.
Distribution and Habitat
Their habitat is extensive covering the sub-Saharan Africa from the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, to southern Morocco and south-western Algeria, and outside of Africa through Arabia, Iran and western Asia to Turkmenistan and the Indian peninsula (Skinner & Smithers, 1990; Harrison & Bates, 1991; F. Cuzin, pers. comm.) They are believed to prefer the rainforest and will occasionally enter into the arid desert areas.
Conservation Status and Threats
While the incredible Honey Badger is not on the International Red Data List -they are tucked away in Appendix III of CITES in Africa. That means they are protected but are they really?
Under the Nature & Environmental Conservation Ordinance in the Cape provinces of South Africa, a permit is required to kill or move honey badgers and has been in effect since 1974. Yet nearly half of the beekeepers in South Africa openly admit to killing them without a permit. These animals are amazing which makes it difficult to imagine killing them for their culinary habits.
Honey badgers were once abundant in nearly every country of the world. Yes, they have their natural enemies but none so fierce or persistent as the HUMAN. Humans always find an “explanation” to justify the killing of animals. They kill them for meat in Africa. Their pelts claws, paws, and internal organs are used in specific tribal medicines and alternative medicines as well. These guys don’t have a chance.
Due to their small litter numbers and the wide expanse of land they travel, they could become extinct quickly and before the authorities would even recognize a problem. There are a few nature reserves that protect the badgers, but clearly more are needed to thwart the inevitable loss of another species.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Sandra Lawson