Are hyenas simply misunderstood?

When someone mentions the word “Hyena”, which thoughts and images come to mind? Scavengers, skulking thieves and ugly looking things? How about cute and cuddly, fascinating, curios or even misunderstood creatures?

Whichever side you may take, one thing is for certain. Hyenas, as with most animals, produce adorable babies.

Hyenas will often use large termite mounds as the base for their dens. They are fantastic at digging deep into the ground, but may often utilize previously dug out mounds where aardvark diggings occurred. These structures may be used for multiple seasons or as temporary housing until a more suitable den is found.

I recently stumbled across a hyena sunning itself on top of a termite mound. On closer inspection I noticed some movement from another tiny lifeform. It was a newborn suckling from its mother. Without trying to disturb the two, I used my binoculars to get a better visual. My eyes could not believe how tiny this little one was. It was hands down the youngest hyena I have ever come across. The little one was still struggling to keep its eyes open.

As the babies grow a little older their confidence levels soar and they develop a keen sense of curiosity. It does not take much to grab their attention. If you sit quietly and patiently near an active den, you may find youngster constantly popping their heads out of the ground to see who has come to pay them a visit.

After spending a few weeks inside the safety of their dug out holes, their sense of adventure kicks in. They will slowly start exploring the immediate surrounds of the den. This opens up a whole new world for them and triggers previous underutilized senses, especially their sense of touch and smell. There are so many new textures to become acquainted with. Something as simple as a broken branch or twig can entertain a youngster for quite some time.

As tempting as venturing far and wide may seem, the little ones know that they dare not move too far afield. Danger may strike at any given moment.

Being one of the dominant carnivore species comes with great responsibility. Female hyenas make magnificent mothers. They are highly protective and caring. Besides keeping a constant eye out for lions and watching over the base, they will make time to play with the youngsters which often results in great entertainment. At times mom’s tail becomes a chew toy, whether voluntary or not. During other times mom simply becomes a trampoline while she basks in the warming, morning sun.

If there is one call that is synonymous with the sound of Africa, a sound that quickly shatters the silence of the bush, it has to be the infamous call of a spotted hyena. The cacophony of nervous chuckles and eerie laughs generated by these hyenas will be etched in your memory for ever. It may be enough for you to lie awake at night pondering whether they are indeed skulking scavengers or simply misunderstood creatures.

2 Comments on “Are hyenas simply misunderstood?

  1. This is a marvellous photographic and narrative account of hyenas. I enjoy watching them and have always been impressed by their social system.

    Liked by 1 person

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