Mellivora capensis 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Mustelidae

Scientific Name: Mellivora capensis
Species Authority: (Schreber, 1776)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Honey Badger, Ratel, Ratel
French Blaireau à miel, Ratel
Taxonomic Notes: Baryshnikov (2000) described a new subspecies from Central Asia (Turkmenistan) Mellivora capensis buechneri based on morphometric studies and pelage variation, and recognized a total of ten subspecies from across the entire range of the species. No DNA investigation of subspecies has been completed for the species, and subspecies denoted by morphometrics or pelage colour and pattern are of dubious validity. There is large variation in pelage pattern (length and size of white stripe) within populations and in size between localities within the same geographical areas (i.e. between Kalahari a semi-arid environment and the Zambezi valley a mesic environment) (K. Begg and C. Begg pers. comm. 2006). Further, these differences are not necessarily related to genetic differences (K. Begg and C. Begg pers. comm. 2006). The data are often also biased by lumping sexes despite the fact that Honey Badgers are significantly sexually size dimorphic with males at least one-third larger than females (Begg et al. 2005; Journal of Zoology, London 265: 17-22).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Begg, K., Begg, C. & Abramov, A.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) and Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Least Concern because the species has a wide distribution range, has no obvious ecological specializations (with a wide habitat and altitudinal tolerance, and catholic diet), and there is no reason to believe it is undergoing a decline sufficient to merit listing in a threatened category. However, clearly identifiable threats are operating, and known to be resulting in localized declines, and with the availability of additional information the species may warrant listing in a higher category of threat.
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Honey Badger has an extensive historical range which extends through most of sub-Saharan Africa from the Western Cape, 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. Historically, it is thought to be absent from the driest centre of the Sahara Desert, the Mediterranean coast as far as the Nile Valley, and the central (Free State province) part of South Africa.

In Africa, they are known to range from sea level to as much as 2,600 m asl in the Moroccan High Atlas (Cuzin 2003) and 4,000 m asl in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia (Sillero-Zubiri 1996).
Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Algeria; Angola (Angola); Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Djibouti; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Liberia; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Mozambique; Namibia; Nepal; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Turkmenistan; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Western Sahara; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Upper elevation limit (metres):4000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Honey Badger are considered rare or to exist at low densities across most of their range (Begg et al. in press). Densities based on night counts have been estimated at 0.1 individuals/km² in the Serengeti N.P., Tanzania (Waser 1980) and 0.03 adults/km² in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa (Begg 2001).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species lives in a wide variety of habitat types from the dense rain forests of the Congo Basin to the arid deserts on the outskirts of the Sahara and Namib, Honey Badgers are opportunistic, generalized carnivores, and feed on a range of prey items varying in size from small insect larvae to the young of ungulates. Although they are primarily hunters of their own food, they may pirate food from other carnivores and will also scavenge from the kills of larger animals (Begg et al. in press). They are primarily solitary, with a non-territorial polygynous or promiscuous mating system, and range over areas as much as 500 km² (Begg et al. 2005; J. Zool., Lond. 266: 23-35). They have small litter sizes and a long birth interval (Begg et al. 2005; J. Zool., Lond. 265: 17-22).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Ratels are directly persecuted (through the use of, for example, steel-jawed traps and poisons) by apiculturists and small livestock farmers throughout their range, and are also indirectly killed by non-selective control programmes targeting other species, such as jackals Canis spp. and Caracal Caracal caracal (Begg et al. in press). There is evidence to suggest they have gone locally extinct in many areas due to poisoning (K. Begg and C. Begg pers. comm. 2006). Ratel body parts (particularly paws, skin and organs) are commonly used in traditional medicine because of their reputation for fearlessness and tenacity. In some areas (Zambia, Guinea), Ratels appear on the bushmeat trade due to the decline in other more favoured bushmeat species (Colyn et al. 2004; Begg et al. in press). Although there is little apiculture in areas of North Africa where the Ratel occurs (except near the Lower Draa area, in Morocco), they are persecuted (trapping, poisoning) (K. de Smet and F. Cuzin pers. comm. 2007).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Honey Badger is found in many protected areas throughout its range, and is also legally protected in many countries, including the Middle Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan and the Mediterranean countries of Israel, Morocco and Algeria. Commercial hive damage from Honey Badgers can be simply and effectively reduced (26% to 1%) by securing bee hives a meter or more above the ground on a stand or trestle (Begg and Begg 2002), thereby minimizing conflicts between Honey Badgers and apiculturists.
The population of Botswana is listed on CITES Appendix III.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
suitability: Suitable  
1. Forest -> 1.9. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane
suitability: Suitable  
2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
suitability: Suitable  
3. Shrubland -> 3.5. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability: Suitable  
3. Shrubland -> 3.7. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical High Altitude
suitability: Suitable  
8. Desert -> 8.1. Desert - Hot
suitability: Suitable  
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:Yes, over entire range
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.2. Unintentional effects (species is not the target)
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

♦  Medicine - human & veterinary
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Begg, C., Begg, K. and Kingdon, J. 2013. Mellivora capensis Ratel (Honey Badger). In: J. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds), The Mammals of Africa. V. Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids and Rhinoceroses, pp. 119-125. Bloomsbury, London, UK.

Begg, C.M. 2001. Feeding ecology and social organization of honey badgers Mellivora capensis, in the southern Kalahari. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Pretoria.

Begg, C.M., Begg, K.S., du Toit, J.T. and Mills, M.G.L. 2005a. Life history variables of an atypical mustelid, the honey badger Mellivora capensis). Journal of Zoology 265: 17-22.

Begg, C.M., Begg, K.S., du Toit, J.T. and Mills, M.G.L. 2005b. Spatial organization of the honey badger (Mellivora capensis). Journal of Zoology 266: 23-35.

Begg, K.S. and Begg, C.M. 2002. The conflict between beekeepers and honey badgers in South Africa: a western Cape perspective. The Open Country 4: 25-37.

Colyn, M., Dufour, S., Condé, P.C. and Van Rompaey, H. 2004. The importance of small carnivores in forest bushmeat hunting in the Classified Forest of Diecké, Guinea. Small Carnivore Conservation 31: 15-18.

Cuzin, F. 2003. Les grands mammifères du Maroc méridional (Haut Atlas, Anti Atlas et Sahara): Distribution, Ecologie et Conservation. Ph.D. Thesis, Laboratoire de Biogéographie et Ecologie des Vertèbrés, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Université Montpellier II.

Gorbunov, A.V. 1995. Honey badger – Mellivora capensis Schreiber, 1776. In: V.V. Kucheruk (ed.), Mammals of Turkmenistan. Vol. 1. Carnivores, Pinnipeds, and Ungulates, pp. 111-121. Ylym, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

Heptner, V.G., Naumov, N.P., Yurgenson P.B., Sludskii, A.A., Chirkova, A.F. and Bannikov, A.G. 1967. Mammals of Soviet Union. Vol. 2(1). Sea Cows and Carnivora. Vyshaya shkola, Moscow, Russia.

Sillero-Zubiri, C. 1996. Records of Honey Badger, Mellivora capensis (Carnivora, Mustelidae), in afroalpine habitat, above 4,000 m. Mammalia 60: 323-325.

Waser, P.M. 1980. Small nocturnal carnivores: ecological studies in the Serengeti. African Journal of Ecology 18: 167-185.

Citation: Begg, K., Begg, C. & Abramov, A. 2008. Mellivora capensis. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T41629A10522766. . Downloaded on 25 June 2016.
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