Honey Badger - Millivora capensis

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Striped Polecat - Ictonyx striatus | Honey Badger - Millivora capensis | Clawless Otter - Aonyx capensis


Afrikaans Ratel Zulu Nsele Tswana Matswani Shangaan Shidzidzi Shona Sere, Tsere

7-8 cm

Distribution Dung
4-6 cm
Rounded ends

Visible Male/Female Differences

Males larger than the females

Habitat and Distribution

A wide range of habitats except desert, moist areas and forest.


Eats a very wide range of scorpions, spiders, berries, lizards and snakes and small animals, especially mice . They also eat larger mammals, honey, grubs and bee larvae.

Life history

Litters of two are born in summer.

Stoffel, the ruler of Moholoholo

Behavior and Habits

Mainly active at night but also active in the daytime. Females cover about 10 km in a day's foraging with a home range of 54 square kilometers. Males cover about 25 km with a have  home range of over 17 square kilometers. The Honey Badger is a very powerful digger. Most of its prey is dug out of burrows. They are nomadic and dig a new den almost every day.

They are solitary but sometimes seen in family or small groups. They have a typical slow rolling gait with nose close to the ground as they hunt. Prey is detected by scent, and likely spots such as bushes are approached from downwind. They open up rotten logs to uncover insect larvae and raids beehives. They may break into poultry runs to kill chickens and is an occasional scavenger.

Its reputation for ferocity is well founded. The black and white pattern is a dire warning to other animals not to mess with them. Smithers (1983) reports catching one in a steel live-trap. The honey badger tore of the end of the trap to get out, but, wrath still not appeased, attacked the trap and crushed the side and the trigger mechanism. Stevenson-Hamilton (1912) reports of honey badger trotting off victoriously and none the worse after a fight with a pack of dogs.  Badgers can kill pythons up to 3 m long. Hunting honey badgers are often shadowed by a pale chanting goshawk (Melierox conorus) or by a black-backed jackal which hope to grab prey that escapes. When foraging for food will poke into every nook, a tireless hunter. Diet consists of small animals, frogs, rodents, termites and bees. They cache surplus food as well as honeycombs.

Stoffel, a male honey badger at Moholoholo in South Africa, had his enclosure next to a large male lion who fancied himself as boss. One day, Stoffel had had enough and broke out into the lions' enclosure next door. Stoffel kept the lion, who treasured wisdom above pride at that particular time, perched on top of his sleeping quarters for a day. Visit Moholoholo to see Brian's passion for African wildlife.

It is a clumsy runner due to flat feet and long claws; walks with a rolling gait; has been seen somersaulting down slopes.Under in severe danger it releases a foul-smelling secretion from the anal glands.


  • Defensive threat: hiss and rattling roar.

  • Talking to itself: breathy hrrr-hrrr.

  • Close-range contact call: grunting.

  • Female, nest-building: squeaking sounds.

  • Baby distress call: plaintive whine.

Field sign

Droppings are cylindrical, up to 5 cm long, 1,5 cm thick, rounded at the ends (most other carnivore dung has tapered ends), containing any of a wide range of animal remnants. Dug up rodent burrows, opened dung-beetle balls.

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