The ratel was photodocumented for the first time in Karnataka during an exercise to estimate leopard density The elusive ratel, popularly called honey badger (Mellivora capensis), has been photodocumented in the wild for the first time in the State, it is reckoned.
The ratel was photographed during a camera-trapping exercise to estimate leopard density in the Habur and Halagur ranges of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary by wildlife biologist Sanjay Gubbi and his team from the Nature Conservation Foundation, and Panthera members Deepak Bhat, Madhusudanan, Harish Nagashettihalli, Poornesha H.C and Rashmi Bhat.
The exercise is being carried out in collaboration with the Forest Department.
A press release said ratels belong to the mustelidae family and are mostly found in dry habitats. They are found in parts of Africa, Arabia, western Asia, and the Indian peninsula. It is called ‘tara karadi’ in Kannada, the release added.
However, ratel density is very low in most of the places they are found. They have been sighted in India extremely rarely. A ratel was reportedly found in a well, near Doddaalahalli, in Kanakapura taluk in 2003. It was shifted to Mysore zoo but died in a few days.
“It’s heartening that this camera-trapping exercise has given surprising results such as the documentation of the ratel. It enhances the conservation value of the dry savannah woodland forests of Cauvery,” said K.V. Vasanth Reddy, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
Nocturnal and solitary, ratels weigh 8 to 10 kg. They are carnivorous and feed on a range of prey, including insect larvae, young ones of ungulates, birds and even poisonous snakes. They are also known to scavenge and eat the kills of other carnivores.
The ratel is listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Though listed as a species of Least Concern (LC) in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species owing to its wide distribution range, their numbers are known to be declining locally. This is owing to various factors, including retaliatory killing and hunting for its body parts and meat.
Though they are known to raid beehives and cause conflict in Africa, such incidents are not reported in India, the release said.