Spatial organization of the honey badger Mellivora capensis in the southern Kalahari: home-range size and movement patterns

Authors


* All correspondence to: C. M. Begg, Postnet Suite 230, Private Bag X18, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa. E-mail: ratel@iafrica.com

Abstract

Radio-tracking locations of 25 individuals (13 females; 12 males) and visual observations of nine habituated individuals were used to investigate the spatial organization and movement patterns of the honey badger Mellivora capensis in the southern Kalahari. The home ranges of adult male honey badgers (541 ± 93 km2) were significantly larger than the home ranges of adult females (126 ± 13 km2). Female home-range size was five times larger than predicted from body mass. The extensive home ranges of females were likely to be a function of relatively low prey availability in the semi-arid Kalahari and the long period of cub dependence (12–16 months). While mean home-range overlap in females was moderate (13%) and home-range centres were regularly spaced, females did not appear to actively defend a territory and no direct interactions between females were observed. Scent marking appears to mediate spatio-temporal separation and females show a loosely territorial spacing pattern. In contrast, males did not support the typical mustelid pattern of intra-sexual territoriality but instead encompassed the overlapping home ranges of up to 13 females. Males and females differed significantly in their rate of travel (3.8 ± 0.3 km/h vs 2.7 ± 0.2km/h), straight line (6.2 ± 0.5 km vs 2.4 ± 0.2 km) and actual distance (13.8 ± 0.9 km vs 7.7 ± 0.7 km) moved during an active period but do not differ in the percentage of their home-range area traversed in a single day (3%). Young males tended to have smaller home ranges (151 ± 45 km2) than adult males and showed a spacing pattern more similar to adult females than adult males. In common with other solitary mustelids, the spatial organization suggests a polygynous or promiscuous mating system.

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