Where to see hyenas

Hyenas are not dogs or cats. They belong to their own Family - Hyaenidae - which includes the spotted hyena, the brown hyena, the striped hyena and the Aardwolf. The spotted hyena is the most widespread. They are found throughout East and Southern Africa in habitats ranging from savannas, grasslands, woodlands, forest edges, sub-deserts, and even mountains up to 13,000 ft. In some national parks, like the Liuwa Plains in Zambia, there are no lions making hyenas the apex predator. The brown hyena is the rarest of the four members of the Hyena family and is found in arid parts of southern Africa including Namibia and the Kalahari in Botswana and South Africa. While hyenas might have bad reputation as sneaky scavengers, they are actually one of the most fascinating and complex animals you can see on safari.

Did you know?

  • Hyenas are not just scavengers, they are also talented pack hunters. They get up to 75% of their food from their own kills. In fact, it is more frequent for a lion to steal a kill from a hyena than the other way around.
  • Hyenas have a matriarchal social structure. Females hyenas are more muscular and more aggressive than males and can lead “clans” of up to 80 individuals.
  • There vocalizations (laughs) are used for communication and convey age, social standing within the pack through tone and pitch.
  • They can eat 30 – 40 lbs of meat in a sitting!
  • Hyenas are able to crush and swallow bone, which is digested by their strong stomach acids.

Conservation

The total world population size of the spotted hyena is well above 10,000 individuals several subpopulations exceed 1000 individuals. Despite these relatively healthy numbers, hyenas are experiencing population declines outside conservation areas. The challenges facing hyena populations include habitat loss and human-hyena conflict. Like many carnivores, hyenas come into conflict with humans when they prey on livestock. Farmers often retaliate and kill hyenas, sometimes via large-scale poisoning of local populations. The IUCN currently classifies the spotted hyena as “Lower Risk: conservation dependent” which reflects the need to secure existing protected areas and prevent conflict with humans to ensure the sustainability of hyena populations throughout Africa.

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