The Spotted Hyena is the largest of the three species of hyena and native to sub-Saharan Africa. Although they look like dogs, they are actually more closely related to cats. Hyenas are scavengers and will steal prey from other carnivores including leopard and cheetah given any opportunity. They will eat all parts of the prey including skin and bones allowing them to thrive even in lean times. They are, however, skilled hunters in their own right and have been known to take down prey as large as antelope or wildebeest. They are fast, agile and, once they have isolated their prey, they can run for long distances to tire it out before going in for the kill. They often target an individual which is ill or old. Once the prey has been killed, they fight amongst each other for a share as they will with other predators like lion. Spotted hyena are not fussy eaters and also hunt birds, lizards, snakes and insects.
Spotted hyena live together in groups called clans, which are led by the larger females and can reach up to 80 strong. They communicate through a wide variety of sounds, the most notable of which is the laughing sound which has become synonymous with the hyena. They are competitive with one another not only for food but for mates and females care only for their own young whilst the males do not offer paternal care at all. They will hunt as individuals or in groups.
Challenges & Solutions
Hyena are at risk from humans as they often attack livestock and raid food stores and damage crops. Farmers see them as pests and will regularly kill them. Hyena are often seen scavenging on the carcasses of livestock which have been killed by another predator and then mistakenly blamed for the kill, leading people to believe that they are responsible for more predation than is the case.
Keeping livestock in enclosures surrounded by thorn fences seems to deter hyena from approaching as does the presence of domestic dogs. Educating communities coming into contact with hyenas about these deterrents and increasing tolerance of them is essential to conservation efforts.
- Scientific Name
- Crocuta crocuta
- 50 – 85kg, 110 – 185lbs
- 0.7-0.9m, 2-3ft tall
- Life Span
- 25 years
- Group Name
- Clan, up to 80
- avg 110 days
- Lions, Humans
Source: IUCN 2008. Crocuta crocuta.
IUCN 2014: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1.