The honey badger resembles a badger or wolverine, and its color resembles a skunk, since its color is also based on the contrast of black and white. This animal, living in Africa and in some regions of Asia, is rightfully considered the most daring of all animals: even lions are afraid of it. People unfamiliar with him and hearing the name of this beast can easily confuse him with a bear. But, in fact, the honey badger belongs to the family of martens, although it is not too similar to the elegant and dexterous weasels or ermines, of which he is a distant relative.
Description of the honey badger
The honey badger, or, as it is also called, the warrior, belongs to the Kunih family, however, this species is placed in a separate genus and in its own subfamily. The first honey-eaters appeared even during the Middle Pliocene in Asia and to date, this species has been divided into 12 subspecies that differ in size, shape and location of white or grayish marks, as well as their shade.
The honey badger is a rather large animal for the marten family: its body length reaches almost 80 cm and its tail length is 25. The weight of the beast, depending on sex, can be up to 12 kg in males and 9 kg in females. The structure of the warrior is similar to a bear: it has a strong muscular body of a slightly elongated format and rather short, thick limbs with powerful curved claws. The length of the claws on the front legs of the beast can reach 4-5 cm.
Between the fingers, the honey badger has small membranes, and the soles of its paws are flat and devoid of wool. The paws themselves are large, elongated in length, and the fingers, especially on the front paws, where the claws are maximal, look slightly spaced from each other. The head of the beast is large, with a wide and rather flattened cranial part, but it narrows sharply to the nose. The muzzle looks very shortened and dull at the end. The eyes of the warrior are dark and small, so that it is sometimes difficult to see them against the background of the coal-black hair of the animal.
The ears of the honey badger are very small, reduced, so that they are also almost invisible among its thick fur, but the almost complete absence of the visible outer part of the ear does not make the animal’s hearing worse. The coat of the honey badger is quite thick and tough. Depending on the subspecies, the fur of these animals can be more or less long. But, no matter how long it is, the main purpose of the coarse and hard hair coat of the honey badger is to protect the animal from bee stings, bumblebees, poisonous spiders, snakes and scorpions.
The color of this amazing creation is a bright, contrasting combination of white and black, less often - gray in various shades and black. The most common coloring of the honey badger looks like this: the upper body and head are painted white, then turning into a very light, grayish tone, which reaches almost to the belly and then sharply changes to a charcoal-black shade. Black is also present on the head, since it is painted white or grayish only to the line of the forehead and ears.
Such a coloring is noticeable from afar, it seems to warn other animals that it is better not to approach the owner of such a bright and contrasting appearance.
It is interesting! In the northeast of the Congo and in Ghana, there is a subspecies of the honey badger, which has a completely black color without white or gray spots. Its coat is shorter and thinner than that of other subspecies of the warriors, but it is no less harsh than theirs and it also protects the black honey badger from the bites of the poisonous invertebrates and reptiles that it hunts.
The tail of this animal is short, thick at the base, but tapering towards the end, abundantly covered with hair. Depending on which subspecies this individual belongs to, its tail may be more or less short. Also, honey badgers belonging to different subspecies can wear a tail, straightening it, or throwing it in the form of a loose ring above the back.
Despite the fact that this animal looks completely harmless, in fact, the honey badger is a strong, agile and dangerous predator whose appearance and behavior are very similar to the distant relative of the warrior living in more northern latitudes - Wolverine. Honey badgers are active at dusk or in the dark. But in some uninhabited regions of their habitat, as well as in mild weather, warriors can be seen in the afternoon.
Some researchers believe that the lifestyle of this animal depends on the time of year. So, for example, in the summer, when it is too hot and stuffy during the day, honey badgers go out in search of prey after dark, and in the afternoon they sleep in their burrows. In winter, warriors can be active not only at night, but also during the day. And in the fall, these animals were seen hunting in the morning and in the evening.
Honey-beetles living in the northern regions of their range can fall into short hibernation during the winter with a sharp cooling. But, in general, such behavior for them is rather an exception. The honey badger rests in burrows from one to three meters deep, which he himself digs with the help of his powerful forepaws with strong and long claws. In these pits, the beast arranges sleeping chambers for itself, which are lined with soft bedding.
Usually, on the territory of the honey badger there are several such holes, moreover, the warrior almost never rests for two days in a row in the same shelter, and each time he settles in a different pit. This is not surprising when you consider that the beast makes great transitions and travels too far to return after such a long walk into the same hole where he slept the day before.
A honey badger moves, as a rule, on the ground, but if necessary, this animal can climb onto a tree without difficulty. Most often, he does this when he decides to feast on the honey of wild bees, arranging their nests there.
By nature, warriors are loners. Only young individuals can form a few flocks, and even honey badgers live in family groups during breeding and rearing offspring. In the mating season, you can also see these animals moving in pairs: male and female. But after mating, they part and again lead a solitary lifestyle.
Rati are territorial animals. Each adult animal is assigned an individual plot of a rather large size, amounting to several square kilometers. The animals mark the boundaries of these possessions with the help of a special secret secreted by the glands located on the back side of the body.
It is interesting! Ratel is a surprisingly brave beast that can fight without fear even with such a large and dangerous predator as a leopard or lion. And hunters in Kenya believe that if you eat the heart of a honey badger, you can become as brave and hardy as this animal.
Honey badgers bravely defend their hole and their territorial possessions from the invasion of outsiders. Without hesitation, they enter into a duel with any opponent, regardless of its size and, most interestingly, they often defeat animals larger than themselves. Due to their strength, courage, and also the ferocity shown in battles, warriors are often compared with wolverines, also considered ferocious and dangerous predators, despite their not too large size.
If necessary, for example, in case of a sudden attack on him, the honey badger can launch a "chemical weapon" - shoot at the enemy with a liquid with a very unpleasant odor, which, as a rule, discourages even the most hungry predator, the desire to pursue the warrior further. This method of protection, and the white-black color characteristic of the honey badger, makes it very similar to a skunk, although at present these two animals are no longer considered related.
And also, the honey badger is a very smart, cunning and resourceful creature, which, moreover, can use stones, sticks, logs and other materials as auxiliary tools. For example, a warrior can use them in order to get to a bee's nest in this way.
And the animals living in zoos show incredible abilities in terms of shoots from their cages.. So, one of the representatives of this species, a honey badger named Stoffl, for 20 years spent in the zoo, learned to open any locks and overcome the fence with the help of improvised tools, such as, for example, a rake forgotten by a clerk that Stoffl put on the wall and he climbed out of an enclosure enclosed by a concrete wall. The same warrior learned to sculpt bricks from clay soil, which had previously been filled with the floor of his aviary, and build a staircase from them, on which he easily climbed over the fence.
Moreover, Stoffle taught similar tricks to a female of her own species, who was hooked with him so that he would forget about trying to escape for a while, which once again confirms that honey badgers are very intelligent, cunning and easily learning new skills. It is the ability to adapt to any conditions of existence and the innate intelligence, if one can say so about a wild predatory animal, that allowed the warriors to populate a vast region, which includes various climatic zones.
How many honey badgers live
It is not known exactly how many warriors can live in their natural habitat. In captivity, these animals survive to 24-25 years.
It is not too pronounced: males are slightly larger than females; in all other respects, warriors of different sexes look almost the same.
The distribution area of this species is extremely extensive: it includes almost the whole of Africa, with the exception of territories covered with tropical rainforest, as well as the Arabian Peninsula, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkmenistan, southern Kazakhstan (Karakalpakia), India and Nepal. This animal can settle in various climatic zones, but it does not like intense heat and therefore avoids regions that are too hot, such as deserts and semi-deserts.
The honey-eaters also do not like the high humidity - for this reason they prefer not to settle in the humid tropical forests. Basically, representatives of this species live in sparse deciduous forests and in the steppe zone. Also, honey badgers can settle in the mountains - at an altitude of up to 3000 meters. Their favorite habitats are steep ravines with sandy loamy or loamy soils, on the slopes of which it can be convenient for honey badgers to dig holes.
Honey badger diet
The fact that the honey badger eats honey is already clear from the name of this animal. And, indeed, the warrior carefully watches the movement of bees and from time to time ruins their hives, and eats not only sweet honeycombs with honey, but also bee larvae.
The bird flies ahead and with its cries tells the honey badger where the bee's nest is located. She sits on a tree or bush and makes a loud cry, calling for a honey badger. And when he is nearby, he flies to another bush, after which everything is repeated until the honey pointer shows the warrior to the nest of bees.
It is interesting! The honey badger even made an unspoken alliance with one bird from the woodpecker family - the honey pointer. When he discovers a nest of bees, he sends a special signal to the beast, indicating the right direction to the desired treat.
Interestingly, the honey badger and the honey guide even talk to each other: when the beast hears a loud cry of a bird pointing him in the right direction, it makes sounds that resemble either cackling or grunting. The essence of this mutually beneficial cooperation between the honey badger and the honey pointer is that the bird loves to eat the bee larvae and does not refuse wax, which the honeycombs consist of, but cannot reach them, while the honey badger does it with ease. And it is not at all difficult for the beast to share its prey with its faithful assistant - the honey indicator, which he always does, leaving a small part of the larvae of bees and honeycombs with honey.
And yet, far from one honey is the basis of his diet. Ratel is a dexterous and ferocious predator that has a special predilection for snake meat. At the same time, even the bites of poisonous reptiles do not stop him, since he, in addition to a very thick skin that protects against bee and snake bites, has another amazing feature: the resistance to poison of even deadly snakes. So, even if a poisonous reptile manages to bite a honey badger in the face, which is the only vulnerable part of his body, the beast will not die even from the venom of the cobra.
The poison can cause severe pain to the honey badger and temporarily paralyze him, but is not able to kill. The beast, having been bitten, will convulse for several minutes, and then simply lie down paralyzed for some time - from 20 minutes to two hours, after which it will rise and go off again in search of new prey.
In general, the honey badger does not disdain any prey: he gladly eats various rodents, such as hamsters, mice, rats or ground squirrels. The warrior also hunts frogs, turtles, birds and hedgehogs. Honey badgers living in Central Asia can even eat poisonous scorpions. He does not disdain carrion, which is rare for a predator from the family of martens. These animals and bird eggs eat if they manage to find them.
In Africa, warriors like to settle near villages where apiaries ravage and steal poultry, and sometimes even attack domestic animals, which is why they are considered harmful animals that local residents exterminate at every opportunity: after all, a creature that directs damage to a bird, and, sometimes, for livestock, seriously threatens their well-being, especially when you consider that the peasants in Africa already live poorly. But a honey badger can eat a berry or other plant food only occasionally when he fails to profit from any other food.
Breeding and offspring
Honey badgers do not breed often, as a rule, in the natural environment, females of this species come to hunt once a year. And only at this time the warriors walk in two, whereas usually these animals prefer to lead a solitary lifestyle. After mating, the male leaves the female, and she is left alone to bear her future offspring.
Pregnancy at the honey badger lasts from 5 to 7 months. Newborns are born in a burrow, specially equipped by this time, by a female who covers the bottom of the sleeping chamber with dried stems of herbaceous plants, so that the babies feel comfortable there. As a rule, in the litter there are from two to four helpless, blind and completely naked cubs with dark gray skin folded in the area of the paws. The first weeks of their life, small honey badgers spend in a hole on a bed of dry grass.
The cubs open their eyes in 32-35 days, by the same time they also begin to gradually grow wool. Three months later, the babies begin to leave the den and learn how to get their own food. However, they remain with their mother for a long time - about a year. And only after the final maturation, young animals can begin to live separately from the mother and their brothers and sisters.
It is interesting! Until the cubs have learned to move independently, the female constantly - every two days, transfers them from one hole to another for safety reasons. After the kids begin to move on their own, the whole family continues to move from one shelter to another with the same frequency, but now they themselves go there after their mother.
Sexual maturity in warriors occurs at the age of about 1 year in males and 1.5 years in females.
The main natural enemies of the honey badger are wolves and wild dogs. Lions usually avoid collisions with a honey badger, but some of them can hunt warriors, albeit extremely rarely.Most often, this is done by expelled from the pride or wounded animals, driven by hunger to despair.
Population and species status
Due to the fact that honey badgers in some countries of Africa are considered as pests, causing damage to poultry and destroying beehives, local residents are actively fighting these animals, which is why the number of warriors in those areas of the range has significantly decreased by now. At the same time, this beast, as a species, is not threatened with extinction: the population of honey badger is quite large, and the range on which they live is simply huge. It is for this reason that the honey badger is currently assigned the conservation status: “Least Concerns”.
Honey badger - an amazing, albeit widespread, but at the same time little studied animal. About the features of his lifestyle is still not known so much. A mystery remains its incredible resistance to snake venom, which would kill and a much larger animal. Zoologists studying these incredible animals are also very interested in how this warrior "agrees" with the bird as a honey indicator and when did this alliance of such unlike creatures arise. Some part of the mysteries that the honey badger presents to scientists can be solved by observing this beast in captivity. But most of the secrets of warriors are still not revealed and are waiting for their researchers.