Ratel (Mellivora capensis)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Mustelidae
Size:    Length: Up to 3 feet (91 cm) including tail
Weight: 18 to 35 pounds (8 to 15 kg)
Diet: Honey, snakes, mammals, fruit, plants, eggs and roots
Distribution: Africa, Asia
Young:  1 to 4 cubs per litter
Animal Predators:  None
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Cub
Lifespan: Up to 26 years



·       In Israel, killing a ratel is punishable by imprisonment.

·       Ratels tend to be very secretive; therefore knowledge of their habits is limited.

·       There is a myth that ratels dig graves and eat human corpses.

·       Ratels are related to badgers, skunks, weasels and wolverines.



Ratels have very tough skin and are not affected by bee stings or even bites from other animals, except on their belly. Physically, they resemble skunks. They are black animals with one large, light grey stripe down their back. When threatened, they secrete a foul odour. 



Ratels are found across Africa as well as parts of the Middle East and India. They live in burrows that they dig themselves, or take over from another animal.


Feeding Habits

Ratels are also known as honey badgers because they love honey and work in cooperation with a bird called a honey guide. The honey guide calls out when it finds a beehive, and leads the ratel to it. While the ratel tears the beehive open, the bird waits. Once the honey is exposed, the ratel eats its fill, leaving some of the honey, as well as the larvae and wax for the bird. Ratels prey on snakes and mammals of all sizes, but also eat fruit, plants, eggs and roots.



Mating occurs at various times through the year, depending on the region. Gestation lasts for about six months and a litter usually contains two only cubs, although ratels can give birth to one to four offspring. The cubs are born naked and blind and are helpless. The female gives birth inside the burrow, on a nest of grass.



Ratels are related to badgers and like their close relatives, are extremely fierce and aggressive. Ratels have long, sharp claws and have been known to attack any animal they consider a threat, including humans, cattle and even lions. When another animal uses its teeth to grab a ratel by the back of the neck, the ratel can swing around and bite back. Although they are known as solitary animals, they can sometimes be found in small groups of three or four—a mother, father and offspring. 



Ratels are not a conservation concern at this time.










Ratel Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US