Let’s be blunt, hyenas need your help. But, before you think of the hyenas in The Lion King and shudder, you need to know that Disney got it wrong. In reality, hyenas are not bad guys. Hyena mothers are loving parents who look after their cubs for longer than any other predator, and hyena clans have a highly developed and complex social system.
They are also extremely clever. Some researchers say they are more intelligent than chimpanzees, which means they are very smart indeed.
Hyenas play an important role in ecosystems. As well as being expert hunters, they are also vital clean-up specialists. Simply put, they eat the carcasses that other predators abandon and by doing so, stop the spread of disease.
In these COVID times, you could say hyenas are the wilderness’ answer to face masks.
For these and other reasons, it’s vital to keep hyenas around, yet their numbers are decreasing. In wildlife reserves, they are safe, but the minute they get into surrounding areas, trouble starts. Farmers don’t want to share their livestock with hungry hyenas and are inclined to shoot them, with deadly consequences for hyena cubs waiting at home for dinner.
If hyenas are to survive, we need to know more about them. For example, we know there are spotted hyenas in South Africa’s Addo National Park, but we don’t know how many there are or the extent of their range. It’s important that we find out. Hyenas have been ignored to the point that we don’t even know how many are still alive in the wild. Researchers estimate that there could be as many as 14,000 or as few as 4,000! We could unknowingly be on the verge of a conservation disaster.
It’s essential that we collar these important, but misunderstood, animals so that they, and future hyena generations, can be protected.
Hyena mysteries abound. We know that they communicate over long distances. Hyenas can sense that an animal has been killed 12 miles (20 kilometers) away and immediately start heading towards lunch. But we have no idea how they do this, and it’s driving scientists crazy.
To help find out and to keep a close eye on hyenas who might break out from the national park into farm areas, we’ve dipped into our rapidly diminishing emergency fund and bought three wildlife tracking collars for hyenas. But we need more collars to help scientists with this urgent research project.
Please help us raise funds for three more hyena tracking collars. Each one costs $2,500 (£1,780).
Spotted hyenas are astounding creatures that have been vilified in international popular culture and treated like vermin for decades. Because of their terribly unfair reputation, these fascinating, affectionate animals, who play a critical role in the health of their habitats, have not received the research or conservation attention that they need.
By purchasing three satellite tracking collars, we’re already helping to gather new information on the previously unknown behavior of the collared animals.
But, three collars are not enough, we need more! Especially now, during the worst drought in 100 years, which is making water and prey scarce. It is more urgent than ever to understand these creatures so we can protect them.
It is only with the support of real animal lovers like you that we will be able to provide the support they need.
Scientists sued Disney Studios for their unfair depiction of spotted hyenas, but the damage has never been undone. The Lion King did much to damage the image of hyenas. Spotted hyenas are far from the ugly, slobbering scavengers shown in movies. These exceptional creatures have complex family structures and care lovingly for their young.
We do know is that these creatures may have the most intricate social structure of all predators. Led by an alpha female, all females rank higher than the top male. Like a royal family, the alpha female’s cubs rank above all the other clan members, except their mother, from birth. Up to 80 hyenas have been recorded in a single clan, each one having a rank.