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Ratels can be found on arid grasslands, moist savannas, montane forests and semi-deserts. They are adapted to surviving in both wet and dry habitats.

Ratels are omnivores but have also been described as fierce carnivores. They are very good hunters, scavengers and forages. Their diet contains a wide variety of foods including fish, birds, reptiles – particularly snakes, invertebrates, insects, fruit and carrion. However, the ratels favourite food is honey. Ratels have been known to chase young lions away from their kills and steal their food.

They are nomadic creatures who are usually solitary or in small family groups. They range over massive areas with an adult ratels range being as large as 600 square kilometres. Ratels who live near human populations lead a completely nocturnal lifestyle, however, those in uninhabited regions are mainly diurnal.

Ratels work in close partnership with a small bird called a Honey Guide. Honey Guides are very good at finding bees nests and ratels have a healthy appetite for bees nests. When the Honey Guide discovers a nest, which is usually in hollow trees or among rocks, it sings out loudly to inform the ratel. The bees nest consists of wax honeycombs which are full of honey and also bee grubs. Bee grubs develop from egg to pre-pupa before they diapause and hatch as adult bees.

It follows the bird to the nest where it then uses its strong claws to push away rocks or rips open tree trunks to reach the bees nest. The ratel then gets the honey and the Honey Guide gets the bee grubs and some of the honeycombs.

Male and female ratels mate for 3 – 4 days inside a burrow. After a gestation period of 6 months, the female gives birth to 1 – 4 cubs in a chamber or burrow lined with grass. The cubs look very much like their mother at birth and as they develop, they will learn how to be aggressive to other animals as they roam around the savannas and semi-deserts.

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