Where do ratels live?
Ratels can tolerate both very wet and very dry habitats. They can be found in moist savannas, semideserts, and montane forests.
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What is a ratel?
Muscular and compact, the ratel has a thick skull, a well-developed neck and shoulders, and strong forelegs armed with massive claws for digging. The striking pattern of the black lower body and white upper-body fur extends to the tail. It has internal ears that can be closed to keep out dirt while digging.
The ratel has a sweet tooth.
A successful hunter, scavenger, and forager, the ratel eats a variety of foods, including the young of large mammals, rodents of all sizes, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, fruit, and carrion.
The ratel also has a fondness for honey that accounts for its second name—“honey badger.” It has developed an interesting relationship with a small bird called a honeyguide. This bird alerts the ratel by calling repeatedly as the ratel follows, answering its calls with guttural growls until a hive is reached. The ratel then emits smelly, suffocating secretions from its anal glands to fumigate the hive, causing most of the bees to flee and stunning or killing those that remain inside. The ratel bites or claws into the nest and scoops out the honeycomb. When the ratel leaves, the bird eats the remaining dead bees, grubs, and pieces of honeycomb.
They lead a solitary existence.
Little is known about ratels’ social lives. They are generally solitary but sometimes go about in pairs, wandering widely. They regularly and liberally apply scent markings to crevices, holes, and the bases of trees. In uninhabited areas, the ratel is diurnal, but in areas near human habitation, it lives an almost entirely nocturnal life.
Young ratels are very independent.
One to four young are born in a chamber or burrow lined with grass or leaves. The young probably remain close to the home burrow for a long time, as sightings of adults with small young are rare.