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Ratel/Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) Fact Sheet: Summary

Ratel/Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) Fact Sheet

a Ratel (honey badger) in grass

Ratel/Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Mustelidae

Genus: Mellivora

Species: Mellivora capensis - ratel or honey badger

Body Weight
Male: c. 9.4 kg (20.7 lb)
Female: c. 6.2 kg (13.7 lb)

Body Length
Male: c. 724 mm (2.4 ft)
Female: c. 636 mm (2.1 ft)

Tail Length
Male: 143-230 mm (0.5-0.8 ft)
Female: 152-190 mm (0.5-0.6 ft)

Pelage: Coarse, black and white hairs. Body mostly black with a mantle of white hair extending from the crown of the head to the base of the tail.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Broadly distributed across much of Africa; also living on the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian sub-continent. Believed to be absent from the central Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean coast in North Africa.

Habitat: A habitat generalist; ratel live in diverse environments, from arid desert outskirts to rainforests.

IUCN Status: Least Concern (2015 assessment)

CITES Status: Appendix III

Other Designations: South African Red Data Book species

Population in Wild: Global population unknown. Localized population declines in some regions.

Locomotion: Walk, trot, tumble, roll, and somersault on the ground. Capable of climbing trees and swimming.

Activity Cycle: Predominantly nocturnal, though often active in daylight. Sleep below ground in dens or above-ground in hollows. Highly active when awake; may travel 10-27 km/day (6-17 mi/day) in search of food.

Social Groups: Generally non-social, though some interactions between individuals do occur. Males are generally more social than females.

Diet: Carnivores; secure most food through active hunting though individuals may scavenge. Small mammals and reptiles make up much of the diet.

Predators: Few natural predators; leopard, lion, and spotted hyena are known to take ratels.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity: c. 2-3 years in the wild

Gestation: 50-70 days

Litter Size: 1-2 offspring; a single infant is most common

Interbirth Interval: > 12 months; do not breed every year in the wild

Age at Weaning: c. 2-3 months

Typical Life Expectancy:
Wild populations: less than 7 years [Southern Kalahari]
Managed care: no AZA estimates

Feature Facts 

  • The Ratel or Honey Badger is a small carnivore with an appetite for honey
  •  Most food is dug from the ground
  • Their taste for honey can bring them into conflict with humans, when unprotected hives are destroyed
  • Conservation initiatives include efforts to make available inexpensive, Ratel-proof hives.

About This Fact Sheet

© 2015-2018 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Updated April 2015. Evolutionary history updated Aug 2018.

How to cite: Ratel/Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis) Fact Sheet. c2015-2018. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd].
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


We are grateful for the assistance of Dr. Colleen Begg for providing expert content review of this fact sheet.

Dr. Begg is among the first researchers to conducted systematic research on the ecology and behavior of the ratel. Her intensive, multi-year work focused on ratel's in South Africa's Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Kalahari. She has been a long-standing proponent of carnivore conservation and currently serves as the Managing Director of Mariri Investimentos/Niassa Carnivore Project.

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