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|Image Info||Original File Name: Ratel, Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis).jpg Resolution: 350x282 File Size: 26056 Bytes Upload Time: 2007:10:23 10:28:47|
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|Subject||Ratel, Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) - Wiki|
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Ratel, Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) - Wiki
The Ratel (Mellivora capensis), also known as the Honey Badger, is a member of the Mustelidae family. They are distributed throughout most of Africa and western and south Asian areas of Baluchistan (eastern Iran), southern Iraq, Pakistan and Rajasthan (western India). It is the only species classified in the genus Mellivora and the subfamily Mellivorinae. They have been named the most fearless animal in the Guinness Book of World Records for a number of years.
Honey badgers are similar in size and build to the European badger, Meles meles. They are heavily built, and have a broad head with small eyes, no external ears, and a relatively blunt snout. The head-and-body length ranges from 60 to 102 cm, plus a tail of 16 to 30 cm. The animal's height at the shoulder can be from 23 to 30 cm. Adult body weights vary from 5.5 to 14 kg. There is a considerable difference between the sizes of males and females, with males sometimes weighing up to twice as much as females. The weight range for females is 5.5 to 10 kg, while males range from 9 to 14 kg. The legs are short, but the forelegs are well-developed, and the fore feet are equipped with strong claws which can be up to 40mm long.
Found in the Kalahari desert, Ratels are fierce carnivores with an extremely keen sense of smell. They are well known for their snake killing abilities, by which they will grab a snake behind the head in its jaws and kill it. Ratels can devour an entire snake (150 cm/5ft or less) in 15 minutes.
Ratels have such a great appetite for ravaging beehives that there have been cases of dead ratels being found stung to death within the hives they were trying to eat. However, they can take hundreds of stings before retreating a great distance. Commercial honey producers do not take kindly to this destruction and sometimes shoot, trap, or poison ratels they suspect of damaging their hives.
Some sources say that a bird, the honeyguide, has a habit of leading ratels and other large mammals to bees' nests. When a ratel breaks into the nest, the birds take their share too. Other sources say that honeyguides are only known to guide humans; see Greater Honeyguide.
The ratel is among the fiercest hunters of the desert, with prey including earthworms, termites, scorpions, porcupines, hares, and even larger prey such as tortoises, crocodiles up to one metre in size, and snakes (including pythons and venomous species). Its ferocious reputation extends to attacks on animals much larger than itself. Several African tribes report that the honey badger attacks the scrotum of larger mammals if provoked and has even castrated humans. While these reports remain uncorroborated by firsthand evidence, there is some circumstantial evidence such as remains of castrated waterbuck and gnu found in Kruger National Park.
The honey badger can eat dangerous venomous snakes, most often the puff adder. If bitten the honey badger will become severely swollen and paralysed, unable to move for two to three hours. After this period of time the honey badger will re-awaken and continue with its meal or continue its journey. Even more tenaciously, a honey badger will gladly steal a snake's kill, eat it for itself then continue to hunt the snake. This ferocious nature of the badger has earned it its image as a formidable creature.
It will also dig into burrows of small rodents and flush them out for a small meal. Because of the honey badger's large front claws, its ability to dig into burrows is very effective and most opportunities once a rodent is located are successful. The problem lies with the fact that other wildlife are aware of this and birds of prey and jackals are usually nearby ready to steal any kills which manage to squeeze past the honey badger.
Honey badgers are also very intelligent animals. They are one of the few animals capable of using tools. In a documentary film Land of the Tiger, a honey badger in India was caught on film making use of a tool. The animal rolled a log and stood on it to reach a kingfisher fledgling stuck up in the roots coming from the ceiling in an underground cave.
honey badgers rarely serve as prey for lions and leopards; their ferocity and thick, loose skin make it hard to grip or suffocate them and predation difficult. Old, weak honey badgers are more likely to fall prey to leopards, lions, and pythons, but even old honey badgers will defend themselves as vigorously as possible. In one case, shown on an episode of Animal Planet, an old female honey badger that was nearly toothless and had one blind eye was attacked by a leopard. It took the leopard about one hour to kill the honey badger.
Mating and cubs
Once a female honey badger comes into heat, courtship is very energetic. After days of deliberation, a male is accepted as a mating partner, and the badgers will remain in a burrow for 3-4 days of mating. The female badger will give birth to a cub 2 months later. A ratel cub is almost a complete replica of its mother, and as it grows, it learns to be aggressive to any other creature (e.g., curious jackals) as it travels across the desert. It relies on its mother for food and shelter as they regularly move and she digs new burrows. Cubs can handicap a honey badger's hunting; therefore, they are usually left back at the den, where they can be vulnerable. It has been documented that other honey badgers will drag cubs from their dens and attack them, attempting to kill them. Due to cannibalistic threats such as this, only half of honey badger cubs will live to adulthood.
As the cub grows up, its ability to navigate the tough terrain of the desert improves by learning from its mother to not only walk, but to also climb trees to chase snakes. The honey badger is not born with these vital skills for survival, they must be learned.
Once a mother comes back into heat and is ready to rear another cub, the other cub is old enough and skilled enough to survive alone, so it makes its own way in the world, leaving its mother behind. This happens a few months after the cub has been born.
Etymology and pronunciation
Ratel is Afrikaans, from Middle Dutch, rattle, honeycomb (either from its cry or its taste for honey). In English it is accented on the first syllable, and the "a" is pronounced as in "father."
The Killer Badger
The Killer badger is a creature found in a number of modern urban myths from Basra (Al Basrah) province, Iraq, where it was said to have attacked both people and livestock. It has since been identified as the ratel, inflated by rumor.
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