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Striped Hyena

CONSERVATION STATUS : NEAR THREATENED
COMMON EXTINCT
Classification:

Other Common Names: “fisi miraba” in Swahili
Order: Carnivora
Genus & Species: Hyaena hyaena
Family: Hyaenidae

Status:

Listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Range:

Western, Northern, and Eastern Africa, the Middle East, India, and parts of southern Asia.

Habitat:

Striped hyenas are found in arid mountainous regions, scrub woodlands, and in some open savannas and grasslands.  They den in rocky hills, ravines, and crevices. In Africa, the striped hyena is outcompeted by the spotted hyena in open areas and is thus relegated to other habitats.

Activity:

Primarily nocturnal.  The hyena forages alone at night (except for mothers with cubs); during the day, it rests in burrows or caves frequently in groups of up to 4 individuals. These groups never include more than one adult female.  They cover an average of 12 miles per night zigzagging cross-country and also visiting established food sites such as fruit trees, garbage dumps around human settlements, and temporary sites of large kills.

Longevity:

10 to 12 years in the wild; 20 to 25 years in zoos.

Diet:

Predominantly a scavenger.  Its diet consists mainly of carrion from large and medium-sized mammals, such as zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, and impalas.  Striped hyenas will even use their powerful jaws eat bones from carcasses if the meat is gone. Diets are supplemented with fruit, insects, human refuse, and occasionally by killing small animals like hare, rodents, reptiles, and birds.  Striped hyenas can live under desert conditions and can survive without water for long periods; however, they will consume water nightly if it is available.

Description:

Striped hyenas are medium-sized carnivores weighing about 80 pounds and measuring just over 3 feet long from head to tail. They have rounded heads with large, pointed ears; thick muzzles; powerful jaws and strong teeth. Their front legs are much longer than their hind legs, giving them a distinctive walk and a sloping appearance to their backs. Average size of males and females is the same; males tend to be slightly heavier.  Fur color is yellow, grey or pale brown with dark-colored stripes on head, torso, and legs. Their black and white tails are long and bushy.  Muzzles, ears, and throats are black.  They have a mane of long hair on its neck, shoulders and mid-line of the back.  When threatened, hyenas can erect the hair on its mane, making themselves appear almost 40% larger.

Differences between Striped Hyenas and Spotted (Laughing) Hyenas:

Spotted Hyenas . . .

  • Travel in larger groups
  • Frequently group hunt large animals such as wildebeest as well as scavenge
  • Are more vocal in both frequency and volume of vocalizations
  • Have larger females than males.
  • Are overall larger in size

Reproduction:

Striped hyenas reach sexual maturity at age 2 or 3.  Breeding is non-seasonal and both sexes mate with several partners.  1 to 6 cubs are born after a gestation period of 88 to 92 days.  Cubs have white to grey fur with black stripes.  They are born blind and their eyes open after 1 week.  Cubs begin to eat meat after 30 days.

Both male and female bring food to cubs in the den; food is not regurgitated by the parents as with many other carnivores. Cubs may continue to nurse for up to 12 months.

Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:

Hyena mandibles are much stronger than those of canids (dogs).  They crack bones with their canines and pre-molars rather than with the back molars as canids do.  This allows them to crush bones without damaging or wearing down their slicing carnassials (molars).

Hyenas have a digestive system, containing highly acidic fluids, in which organic matter of bone is digested completely and indigestible items (horns, hooves, bone pieces, ligaments, hair) are regurgitated in pellets, often matted together with grass.  This specialized means of eliminating waste is probably the reason why hyenas do not regurgitate food for their young as many other members of Carnivora do.  Scavengers play in important ecological role in that they “clean up” their environment of dead organic material.

Hyenas have excellent senses of vision, hearing, and smell and play a large role in communication.  Hyenas have an anal pouch located between the rectum and the base of the tail which can be turned inside out or “expelled”.  It is used to deposit a paste-like liquid for marking territory and, in striped hyenas, plays a role in meeting other striped hyenas.  Meeting ceremonies involve erection of the dorsal crest (mane), sniffing of the head and body, protrusion and inspection of the anal pouch, and lengthy bouts of ritual fighting in which areas of the neck or throat of a subordinate are bitten and held or shaken.

The striped hyena uses a smaller variety of calls than the spotted hyena. Whining by cubs before suckling, giggling when frightened, yelling when being chased by conspecifics, lowing in a defensive position, growling when play or food-fighting, and a call by the mother to her cub(s), have all been recognized.  Striped hyenas are considerably quieter than the spotted hyena, Crocuta crocuta, in terms of both volume and frequency of vocalizations, and are generally silent but will vocalize if excited or threatened.

The striped hyena is submissive towards the larger spotted hyena and will allow spotted hyenas to steal its food.  They also maintain a safe distance from other large carnivores such as lions or tigers.

There are 5 subspecies of striped hyenas.  The subspecies at Zoo Boise Hyaena hyaena dubbah found in northeast Africa.

Conservation:

There are conflicting views regarding hyenas and their conservation status.  In come cases, the striped hyena seems to be rather compatible with human populations, and its habitat is readily available and not in danger of disappearing.  In other cases, their populations are rapidly declining due to the misconceptions and superstitions of humans.  Believed to be responsible for killing livestock, robbing graves, and the disappearance of small children, the striped hyena is severely persecuted through baiting, tracking, and trapping. In the past, some governments have paid bounties for every hyena killed, and today the Indian government still organizes killings of wolves and striped hyenas in places where carnivores are thought to be responsible for child disappearances. Even when not deliberately persecuted, striped hyenas are often poisoned by bait laid out for other carnivores, captured in traps set by fur trappers for other species, and killed in traffic accidents. The once very abundant striped hyena has now declined over most of its range and is extinct in many localities; a result of not only those threats listed above, but also caused by a decline in carrion due to decreasing populations of other large carnivores (such as wolves, leopards, and tigers) and their prey.