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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hyena/Hyaena and friends

We have three species of hyena in South Africa of which the Spotted Hyena is the largest. Second in size is the Brown and smallest the Striped.

Spotted Hyena
Spotted Hyenas are famed scavengers and often dine on the leftovers of other predators. But these hardy beasts are also skilled hunters that will take down wildebeest or antelope. They also kill and eat birds, lizards, snakes, and insects.

In an increasingly overpopulated Africa, hyenas and humans come into frequent contact. In fact, the Maasai people of Kenya and Tanzania actually leave their dead to be consumed by hyenas. However, these intelligent and bold animals will raid food stores and crops and are blamed for many livestock and even some human deaths. In some areas they have been heavily hunted as destructive pests.
Although hyenas appear similar to dogs, they are actually more closely related to cats. They live throughout much of Africa and eastwards through Arabia to India. Spotted hyenas live together in large groups called clans that may include up 80 individuals and are led by females.
Spotted hyenas have good hearing and sharp eyesight at night. They are fast and can run for long distances without tiring. Packs work together effectively to isolate a herd animal, sometimes one that is ill or infirm, and pursue it to the death. The victors often squabble over the spoils, either among themselves or with other powerful animals like lions.

Spotted hyenas are quite vocal and make a wide variety of sounds, including the "laughing" that has long been associated with their name. They can live in the wild up to 25 years.
Brown Hyena (please excuse the bad pictures but they are from older slides)
Brown Hyena are fairly solitary animal and mainly active at night. They have an excellent sense of smell which assists them in finding carrion. They have very powerful jaws and large strong teeth for crunching through bone which can be seen in the photographs below. Males are slightly larger than females with the average weights being 40.2 Kg for males and 37.7 Kg for females.
They are well adapted to live in arid regions where there are few herbivores. They have very keen senses, they are able to detect a carcass from considerable distances, and are able to run at high speeds for long distances to get to the carcass before other scavengers. As well as scavenging off carcasses, they will also eat fruit (e.g. Tsama or gemsbok cucumber), insects (e.g. locusts, harvester termites and dung beetles), eggs (e.g. ostrich eggs), and will prey on small animals such as rodents, lizards and poultry. When they come across an ostrich nest containing eggs the brown hyena is able to bite the eggs open even though it has slightly less powerful jaws than the spotted hyena which has to kick an egg till it hits one of the other eggs hard enough to break it open so it can consume the egg.

When not at the den, the brown Hyenas are generally solitary.
Striped Hyena
Unlike Spotted Hyena, Striped Hyena tend to be more solitary, foraging alone for food, but they are believed to share a communal den for raising cubs, and possibly at other times although little is known about this. They have a slender build which allows it to travel long distances when foraging - they are able to trot for up to 8 hours a night covering distances of up to 30Km.

In areas where both Striped Hyena and Spotted Hyena are found, the Spotted Hyena are dominant and will steal food from the Striped Hyena. They eat a range of small mammals such as hares or rodents, as well as reptiles and insects including tortoises, grasshoppers and termites. They also eat fruits such as date palms and scavenge from rubbish dumps.
Female Striped Hyena give birth to a litter of 2-4 cubs after a gestation period of around 90 days. The cubs are usually born in a rocky den or a vacant burrow dug by another species. In some areas the Striped Hyena tends to gives birth at particular times of the year but in other areas there is no pattern to their reproduction.

Striped Hyena are found throughout North and East Africa as well as the middle East and parts of India. They live mainly in arid areas including open savannah and rocky slopes, In some areas Striped Hyena are found on the coast.
The Aardwolf is a close relative of the hyena but is much smaller, about the size of a jackal or coyote and more dog-like in appearance.

It is a very specialized predator, with a diet that is made up almost exclusively of termites. The termites are located by smell and hearing when they are out of their mounds and the aardwolf then uses its long sticky tongue to lick them up from the ground. An aardwolf can eat up to 300,000 termites in a single night. They occasionally eat other insects, birds or mice.

The Aardwolf does not kill livestock - its molar teeth are not suited to a carnivorous diet. Its canines are used purely for defense if they are unable to scare their enemy away.

The aardwolf is normally nocturnal, but in the southern African summer, it is active during the day when its main prey sources are active.
When threatened, they raise the mane of hair on their neck and back to make themselves look a lot bigger. The Aardwolf does not kill livestock, but because of its resemblance to a hyena it is often assumed to be a threat to livestock and is therefore unfairly persecuted. They also fall victims to farmers who hunt jackals with packs of dogs as the dogs will also attack and kill the aardwolf.

The aardwolf is a good digger and either digs its own burrow or modifies one left behind by another species. It has 4 digits on each of its hind paws and 5 on each of its front paws. These digits are equipped with strong claws which are used when digging.

The aardwolf is generally solitary except when mating or raising young.

Apart from humans, the main threats to the aardwolf come from spotted hyenas, lions, leopards and pythons.

34 comments:

Jo said...

oh Joan, I love hyenas and loved your post. Both hubby and I have never heard of or seen a striped hyena. perhaps. one day in our travels here in North Africa we'll come across one. Have a blessed day. Jo (Khartoum)

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

When I worked at the Vet Research Lab in Harare we had a spotted hyena that I used to look after. One day he took a dislike to me and I have never moved so fast in my life!!! I just had visions of those snapping jaws:-( Scary stuff. Wonderful photos though. Diane

JM said...

Although hyenas are not among my favourite animals, I loved this post showing the different species. Great work, Joan!

Gaelyn said...

I believe it was the Spotted Hyenas we saw pacing right outside the fence from camp. I recorded their sound from inside the tent. They were very predatious looking, especially at those campers next door with the braii going. LOL
The Brown looks so different. And that Aardwolf looks like a cross between a dog and raccoon. Great post Joan. The old slides look pretty darn good for closeups.

Rambling Woods said...

They have such a bad reputation that it's nice to learn more about them... I have a bug posted just for you Joan.....

oldmanlincoln said...

Amazing animals, photography tops. I wonder each time I see them why their rear ends are so low compared to the front section.

Mary said...

Great photos of them. I always find the idea of them a bit frightening....stories you hear, I guess.

Becky and Gary said...

Ooh, I love this post except leaving the dead to be eaten by the Hyenas. Very interesting facts Joan!
b.

Krista said...

Wow, this is all really interesting. Of course, it's late, and the most relevant thing I can think of is to laugh at the last picture. All i can think of is "BELCH!" lol

Ok, it's bedtime now. Put the computer away, Krista... lol

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I hope you do Jo. They tend to be very secretive though but this is the reason it is always so special finding one. I am pleased I could introduce you to a new species. Have a great week.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

LOL!! That would make me run too Diane. Thanks for sharing your story. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I guess most people feel as you do Jose but they are so necessary in the food chain and we could not do without them.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Yes they were Gaelyn, and they do this around most of the camps. A lot of people feed them scraps from the braai which of course just encourages them more.

Whith rose stripes, I guess it does look like a cross between the two. :) I am waiting for the day I actually find one in the wild.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

They do have Michelle and yet they have a very interesting lifestyle and are ao necessary here in places like the game reserves.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Abe. The front part has developed more to carry the extra weight of the lagre head they have but they are kind of strange looking aren't they? :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

The stories are not pleasant Mary and I hate to say this, but most of them are true. I guess they do have their place in nature though so we cannot disregard them completely.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

I am pleased you found it of interest Becky. I guess it is a bit like making sure diseases dont spread and having no other means to do it.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Glad you enjoyed it Krista. He was lazy and had been sleeping when I approached so it was a yawn of boredom at being woken up. :)

Firefly said...

I have never see hyena in the wild. They do have some in Addo, but I haven't been there much lately and haven't been lucky yet.

oldmanlincoln said...

Back to touch base, about recipes... I have put that blog to rest, so to speak, so there is no need to worry about submitting one now. lol

Thanks for the information about the front being more developed to carry that big head and a large chunk of meat.

I wondered then if they are somehow related to the wolf? Or a development of their own.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

That is probably because they are mainly nocturnal animals Jonker so unless you overnight there, the chances of seeing them is not good anyway.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks for letting me know Abe. Sometimes it is not worth having too many blogs as it takes time to check them all. :)

Wolves, coyote's, hyena, jackal, etc all belong to the same dog family and are related as you surmise and even your domestic species.

chasity said...

what an interesting blog you have here...we will have to spend some time looking around when we are studying south africa!

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting Chasity. I do try to cover a lot of subjects in nature and have done some travelogues on South Africa too, so browse around and if you have any questions, feel free to ask. :)

Andrea said...

Interesting post as usual.
I like them as all the others animals,even if a spotted one could be more scary than a lion.
I told you about the one we met this year:she was big and not scared by us...
Aardwolf could be an interesting pet:I wonder if someone ever tried to grow one...

Sciarada said...

Ciao Joan, I learn a lot with your posts!
Happy week!

troutbirder said...

That's a really interesting post, Joan. To tell the truth I didn't even know there was more than one species of hyena. Wow!

birdy said...

Love this interesting article about Hyena. Thanks for sharing some great pictures of Hyena.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Andrea. You are right, these are much more unpredictable than lions and when they loose their fear of humans, one has to be careful and watch out. This is the problem with people feeding them in some camps.

I have never heard of an aardwolf as a pet although there are places like de Wildt which are breeding them so I do not know if they would make good pets. One lady I used to know had a pet mongoose which she put a dog collar on and took it for walks. :)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Thanks Sciarada. I am pleased to hear from you again. You have a good week too.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Pleased you enjoyed it TB. Maybe because the other two are so secretive there is not much known about them. Also, the Spotted Hyena is more plentiful.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

You are welcome Birdy.

Max-e said...

Hi Joan, I enjoyed this post. I was happy to see that hyhenas have been introduced into the Addo Elephant National Park. The last time we were there I did not see any left over bones from the lion kills.
Also brings back memories if hyhenas in the Zambezi Valley. At Mana Pools you dare not leave anything out at night that is edible or that smells of food, because the hyhenas will carry it off.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

In some places they have lost their fear of man and have become quite a pest around camps. I think this is because so many people think it is great fun to feed them the bones from their braai.

You are right Max, hyaena are so necessary to have in the bush as they do all the cleaning up. I am pleased to hear they have re-introduced them there.