Sunday, August 17, 2014

Spotted Hyena

One of the most interesting animals we encountered in Africa was the spotted hyena. There are four species of hyena: (a) the spotted hyena, the ones we saw; (b) the striped hyena; (c) the brown hyena; and (d) the aardwolf. The spotted hyena is found in Africa, from the Sahel (the transition zone between the Sahara desert and savanna) to South Africa, except for equatorial west and central Africa and much of South Africa (where they have been heavily hunted). The spotted hyena has a strong neck and forequarters that then slope down to an undeveloped hindquarters which are rounded. 
Spotted hyena in Masai Mara. Photo by John Mirau.
It is hard to believe, but it is the second largest carnivore in Africa, after the lion. The spotted hyena has rounded ears 
In Masai Mara. Photo by Esmee Tooke.
and a relatively short tail with a black puffy end. Its fur can be tan to reddish with irregular black spots that fade with age. It also has five barely distinct bands on the back and sides of the neck and white bands above the eyes. 
In Ngorongoro Crater. Photo by Michael Lewin.
It has a broad head with rounded ears and large teeth. 
One of my favorite pictures. Notched ear and drool hanging down from the mouth. In Ngorongoro Crater. Photo by Esmee Tooke. 
Females wear the proverbial pants among this species of hyena. Females are up to 14% larger than males and the alpha female is the biggest and best-fed member of the clan. 
At least six hyenas in the clan in Ngorongoro, all taking naps. Photo by Judy.
Younger members of the clan napping. Photo by Mark Edwards.
In the Serengeti, males average 89 to 121 pounds, while females average 98 to 141 pounds. In Zambia, the averages are 10 to 20 pounds higher than that. Females are as aggressive as males and they have more of a phallus than a vagina. They are more hunter than scavenger and a lone adult can take down a wildebeest. In packs they can take down zebras and larger animals. In the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, wildebeest is the most common pray, followed by zebra and Thomson's gazelles. We learned that hyenas tend to follow leopards and steal their meals. As a result, leopards usually try to drag their meal into a tree so that the hyenas can't steal it. Sure enough, where we saw leopards, we saw hyenas. A female generally has one to two cubs which are born black and the cubs can suckle up to 18 months. 
This female trotted a long distance with her cub in her mouth and past a tree with a leopard in it we were watching. We learned later that the female was attacked by a group of male hyenas which killed the baby. We were told this was done to get the female back into estrus. 
The male plays no role in parenting. 
In Masai Mara, a hyena passes a Masai giraffe. Photo by John Mirau. 
This female defassa waterbuck was watching her baby being devoured by a cheetah. A hyena, behind her, also looks on, apparently planning to steal the meal from the cheetah. In Masai Mara. Photo by Steven Shuel.
Another close-up.

2 comments:

  1. Interesting animal! I didn't know the female was so dominate in this animal.

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  2. I alternated between thinking hyenas were disgusting scavengers and thinking they were oddly cute and sympathetic. Poor mamas that have to protect their babies from predators of their own species.

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