Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The nocturnal brown hyena roams vast distances on its own each night, around 20 to 35 kilometres, searching for carrion on which to feed (2). With its exceptional sense of smell the brown hyena can locate carcasses several kilometres away, and without the need to cooperate with any other hyenas, it does not have to share its find unless it brings the food back to the den (6). Along the Namibian shore, beachcombing for dead fur seals, whales and ocean debris is common (2). The brown hyena is a poor hunter, but will often make feeble, frequently unsuccessful, attempts to catch any small animal it encounters (3). It also feeds on invertebrates, eggs and fruit (2), and shrewdly stores any excess food for later use (3). Despite being solitary when foraging, brown hyenas usually live in extended family groups of four to six individuals, called clans. A clan defends a territory and all members assist in raising the cubs (3). Territories are marked by 'pasting' and defecating; behaviours which also form a clever communication system. Pasting is the act of the hyena depositing secretions from its large anal gland onto grass stalks. The white blob and thin black smear of paste that is left behind contains information about the hyena – its identity and the time since the hyena passed by. This, along with frequently defecating in latrines, ensures that the hyenas of an area have a good idea of what the other clan members are up to (6). Males in a clan do not usually mate with the clan females, as most of them are related to the females and this would cause inbreeding. Instead, females usually mate with nomadic males that wander between territories visiting receptive females (3). The gestation period of the brown hyena is three months, after which up to three blind and deaf young are born. For the first few months after birthing, the female and her young seclude themselves. After this period, they rejoin the clan where, in an example of their extraordinary social system, a lactating female may occasionally suckle other cubs than her own, but showing a clear preference toward her own cubs, and all members of the clan help feed the cubs by bringing food back to the den (2) (4) (6).
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Description

This scruffy looking scavenger is distinguished from the other three hyena species by its long shaggy coat and pointed ears (3). The brown hyena has a dark brown or slate coloured coat with a short brown tail, and striped brown and white legs (2) (3) (4). Cream-coloured fur around the neck forms a distinct mane in adults (2), which, along with the hair on its back, stands erect in aggressive or defensive situations (4) (5). Sometimes, the mane may not be present, as due to fighting it has been replaced by scar tissue (4). Like all hyenas, the brown hyena possesses incredibly strong teeth and jaws, enabling it to crush bones and release the nutritious marrow within (6).
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The brown hyena according to MammalMAP

The brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea) is dark brown to black in colour with a sloped back, white neck and pointed ears. The front legs are stronger and better developed than the hind legs. All legs have a unique stripe pattern, which allow us to distinguish one hyena from another. Brown hyenas primarily scavenge their food. They feed on carcasses but also on fruit, bird eggs and insects. They also kill small mammals for food, although this behaviour is infrequent. They are unable to take down large prey items as their legs are not strong enough to do so. The main threat to the survival of these animals is human persecution. Although brown hyenas are perceived to be the killers of domestic livestock, their foraging strategy (described above) makes them unlikely livestock hunters. However, because of this perception, brown hyenas are often managed with lethal methods such as guns, poison and gin traps. The species is nocturnal and wide ranging, and despite being social animals, brown hyenas typically forage alone. These attributes make them very difficult to detect in the wild. This elusiveness probably explains why, approximately 40 years ago, brown hyenas were classified as endangered. However, today, thanks to the help of camera traps, we’ve found that brown hyenas are much more common than was previously thought. The Tswalu Brown Hyena Project was recently launched at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve in the Northern Cape Province in South Africa. The team is studying the diet, population dynamic and conflicts with farmers. Follow the blog for more information about the project and about brown hyenas. For more information visit the MammalMAP virtual museum or blog.

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Distribution

Range Description

Endemic to southern Africa except for a marginal extension into the arid parts of south-western Angola. The range of the Brown Hyaena has shrunk significantly since the end of the 18th century when it was last recorded from Table Bay in the extreme south-west of the continent (Hofer and Mills 1998a; Mills in press). They remain widespread in southern Africa, and in recent years in South Africa have been recorded from the extreme south in the Western Cape (Gansbaai and Bredasdorp) where it was believed to be extirpated, so it may be recolonizing some of these areas (Hofer and Mills 1998a), although it seems more likely that these were vagrants. Records from Malawi are erroneous (see discussion in Ansell and Dowsett 1988).
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Historic Range:
Southern Africa

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Geographic Range

Hyaena brunnea is native to the Ethiopian biogeographic region. Its current distribution is limited mainly to southernmost Africa, including the Kalahari and Namib Deserts as well as the Skeleton Coast, which borders the southern Atlantic Ocean. Hyaena brunnea is not frequently found north of the Angola-Namibia border or south of the Orange River in South Africa.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Range

Occurs in the South West Arid Zone of Africa, which includes Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe (1) (6).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Brown hyenas are medium to large carnivores, averaging 40.7 kg in mass with a range of 34.2 to 72.6 kg. Body length averages 144 cm with a range of 130 to 160 cm. Owens and Owens (1996) found no significant evidence of sexual dimorphism between males and females. However, the average mass of males and females is sometimes listed separately at 47 kg and 42 kg respectively (Stuart and Stuart, 2001). Both sexes average 78.7 cm in height at the shoulder.

Hyaena brunnea is the second largest member of the family Hyaenidae, surpassed in size only by spotted hyenas. Like all members of the family, the forelegs of brown hyenas are significantly longer and more massively built than the hind legs, giving their profile a sloping appearance as if they were constantly walking uphill. The forefeet are also noticeably larger than the hind feet, and the chest, shoulders, neck and skull are heavily built. The teeth of H. brunnea are massive, even in comparison to other large carnivores. The upper carnassial tooth is particularly large and well developed as an adaptation for crushing bone.

The most obvious way to distinguish Hyaena brunnea from other members of its family is by the long, shaggy hair, which is usually dark brown to black on the body and tan on the shoulders and neck. Hair on the neck and back can reach 30.5 cm in length. This is in contrast to short hair on the face and ears, as well as the legs, which are horizontally striped. The erect ears are larger and more pointed than those of spotted hyenas and resemble those of striped hyenas. The tail is relatively short and bushy, with roughly the same coloration as the body.

Range mass: 34.2 to 72.6 kg.

Average mass: 40.7 kg.

Range length: 130 to 160 cm.

Average length: 144 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
The Brown Hyaena is found in desert areas with annual rainfall less than 100 mm, particularly along the coast, semi-desert, open scrub and open woodland savanna with a maximum rainfall up to about 700 mm. It shows an ability to survive close to urban areas. It is independent of drinking water, but needs some type of cover in which to lie up during the day. For this it favours rocky, mountainous areas with bush cover in the bushveld areas of South Africa (Skinner 1976). It is primarily a scavenger of a wide range of vertebrate remains, which is supplemented by wild fruits, insects, birds’ eggs and the occasional small animal which is killed; their impact on domestic livestock is usually small (Mills 1998; in press). Along the Namib Desert Coast, Brown Hyaenas are successful hunters of Cape Fur Seal pups (e.g, Wiesel 2006).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Brown hyenas prefer to den in arid to semi-arid grassland and savanna biomes at no higher than 1500 m in elevation, but are also found in desert regions that receive less than 100 mm of rain annually. By consuming fruit with a high water content as an alternative to fresh water sources they are able to survive in drier regions than spotted hyenas, their close relative. Den sites are typically located in sandy areas near large rocks or vegetative cover, which provides relief from the heat. Brown hyenas frequently scavenge for food along coastlines.

Range elevation: 0 to 1500 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland

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The brown hyena inhabits desert areas, semi-desert, open scrub and open woodland savanna (5). It can survive close to urban areas and needs some type of cover in which to rest during the day, such as rocky areas and bush cover (7).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Hyaena brunnea is a generalist and a highly opportunistic feeder. Individuals primarily scavenge for carrion, using their acute sense of smell to locate carcasses and their specialized teeth to crush bone. Brown hyenas do not typically hunt live prey, but when an opportunity arises, they do not hesitate to pursue small birds or mammals over short distances. Diets vary from inland Botswana populations to those in the Namib Desert and along the Skeleton Coast. The diet of inland populations is largely composed of carcass remains from the kills of other large carnivores, such as African lions, and leopards. Frequently consumed food items in this area include springbok, springhare, gemsbok and Burchell's zebra. Populations living closer to the Skeleton Coast in western Namibia primarily feed on black-backed jackals and South African fur seal pups that have wandered from their parents or drowned. In both regions, birds such as the crowned plovers and helmeted guineafowl also make up a significant portion of their diet. In addition to meat, brown hyenas consume a high volume of tsama melon (Citrullus vulgaris), hookeri melon (Cucumis hookeri) and gemsbok melon (Citrullus naudinianus) as supplements for fresh water during the dry season. This feature of their diet allows brown hyenas to live in more arid regions than their close relative, the spotted hyena. Excess food that cannot be consumed in a single feeding is sometimes buried under shrubs or bushes and recovered the following day. Brown hyenas are also known to be coprophagic, which is thought to reduce water loss in arid land species.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles; fish; eggs; carrion ; insects; aquatic crustaceans

Plant Foods: leaves; fruit

Other Foods: dung

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: carnivore (Scavenger )

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

As a scavenger, Hyaena brunnea plays an important role in eliminating the remains of old carcasses from its environment. These carcasses are used as breeding grounds for many parasites and diseases if they are left to decay on their own. Brown hyenas are host to a number of endo- and ectoparasites, including fleas, tapeworms, nematodes, nymphs, mites and flies from the family Hippoboscidae.

Brown hyenas help regulate populations of black-backed jackals and South African fur seals through predation. They also alter predation frequencies of cheetahs and leopards by stalking them during hunts and then driving them off of their kills. Brown hyenas also disperse the seeds of tsama melons (Citrullus vulgaris), hookeri melons (Cucumis hookeri) and gemsbok melons (Citrullus naudinianus) at defecation sites.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds; biodegradation

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

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Predation

African lions are the only major predator of adult brown hyenas. Spotted hyenas can also kill adult brown hyenas, but encounters between the two species rarely occurs due to their differing habitat preferences. Brown hyena cubs are susceptible to predation from lions, black-backed jackals and occasionally African wild dogs. Group living likely reduces predation of brown hyena cubs by these animals. When a predator approaches the den, the smallest cubs, usually those under 4 months in age, retreat underground while older cubs stand just outside the entrance with their hair erected.

Adult brown hyenas are most at danger when approaching a lion kill, and they sometimes delay feeding for up to 30 minutes after the lions have left to ensure their safety. They also use raised hackles and a loud, high-pitched cry to alert others of approaching lions.

Known Predators:

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Known prey organisms

Parahyaena brunnea preys on:
Raphicerus sharpei

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Hyaena brunnea has a well-developed sense of smell, which plays an important role in con- and heterospecific communication. When individuals meet, a thorough scent examination of the neck, head, back and anal gland takes place. Scent markings throughout the territory play an important role in communicating valuable information from one clan member to another without direct physical interaction. The anal secretions of brown hyenas consist of two elements. The first is a black paste with an odor that fades relatively quickly and conveys the message to other clan members that an area has recently been searched for food, which helps reduce foraging time in areas devoid of resources. The second element is a whitish paste that can last up to 30 days. These secretions are used to express territorial boundaries to members of other clans. Members of both sexes generally leave these secretions by squatting and rubbing their anal gland over a stick or a stalk of grass. The black paste is always observed above the white paste on a marked object. Individuals of both sexes scent mark 2.6 times per km on average, but markings are left more frequently towards the boundaries of the territory. Defecation sites are also used to convey scent messages about what individuals have recently eaten, and are typically found near the den or around territorial boundaries.

In addition to scent markings, brown hyenas communicate using two visual displays via piloerection of the long fur on their hackles. In an aggressive display, the tail is laid against the back, the ears are alert and the mouth is closed. Defensive displays are characterized by an open mouth and flattened ears. Cubs communicate their desire to suckle by pushing on the female’s mammary glands with alternating front paws. Cubs also groom one another and the adults as a way of bonding. Vocal communication is also an important part of social behavior in brown hyenas. Whines and squeals are used as a warning for approaching predators and as a sign of submission to dominant individuals. A relatively quiet call is used to order cubs into the den. Deep growls sometimes accompany a meeting between rivals from separate clans, and shrieks are used to announce the presence of other predators at a newly discovered carcass.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

  • Gorman, M., M. Mills. 1984. Scent marking strategies in hyaenas (Mammalia). Journal of Zoology, Volume 202, Issue 4: 535-547.
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

In the southern Kalahari Dessert, 86% of brown hyena cubs survived to at least 15 months of age. Hunting by farmers is a common cause of death for young adults and subadults who wander out of their territory. Mature adults typically have a low mortality rate, and their greatest threat is the presence of larger carnivores such as African lions. For individuals that reach old age (around 10 years), tooth wear is the limiting factor for survival, and most die as a result of inadequate nutrition.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
12 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
13 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
12.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
13.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 31.9 years (captivity) Observations: Some evidence suggests mortality rates increase at old age (Ronald Nowak 1999). One wild born specimen was about 31.9 years of age when it died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Brown hyenas typically mate during the African dry season from May to August, following a brief courtship that may last from 3 to 6 nights. They generally exhibit one of two complex mating systems. The first is a clan-based polygynous system, which only occurs when the clan’s alpha male is a non-related individual from another clan. Related males and females generally do not show sexual interest in one another, however males born into a clan have been observed to rise to the status of alpha male and reproduce with clan females on rare occasions. In this first scenario, the alpha male mates with all clan females that are sexually receptive at any given time. He aggressively defends the clan from male intruders using piloerection and biting when necessary. If a nomadic female ventures into the clan’s territory, he may also mate with her. The second mating system consists of the sexually receptive clan females mating primarily with one or more nomadic males that venture into the clan’s territory. This system is either polygynous or promiscuous, with females occasionally mating with as many as four different males. In this scenario, both male and female clan members tolerate the presence of nomadic males. Nomadic individuals likely locate clans by sense of smell, using territorial scent markings and latrine sights made by the clan.

Brown hyena clans exhibit cooperative breeding. Mothers suckle the cubs of other females, and all clan members take part in bringing food back to the den for cubs that are too young to hunt.

Mating System: polygynous ; polygynandrous (promiscuous) ; cooperative breeder

Female brown hyenas may have more than one estrus cycle per year (i.e., polyestrus). Cubs are born with their eyes closed after an average gestation of 97 days. Newborns weigh an average of 693.2 g and are similar in coloration to their parents, but with shorter fur. Litters range in size from 1 to 5 individuals per female (2.3 on average) with alpha females generally having a higher lifetime reproductive output than subordinates. Cubs are almost entirely dependent on their mother’s milk for the first 3 months of their lives, but they may also occasionally suckle from other clan females. Weaning takes place when the cubs are 3 to 12 months old. Once weaning begins, their diet is gradually supplemented by red meat brought back to the den by other clan members. Cubs spend most of their time within or very close to the den until they reach 15 months of age. From 15 to 30 months of age, individuals are referred to as subadults and are capable of foraging independently. Females become sexually mature by 24 months, and males become sexually mature by 40 months. Females may wait anywhere from 12 to 41 months between successive litters.

Breeding interval: Breeding frequency ranges from 12 to 41 months, and in some cases is largely dependent on the presence of nomadic males.

Breeding season: Breeding primarily takes place during the African dry season (May to August), but may also be based on the spontaneous arrival of nomadic males.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 5.

Average number of offspring: 2.3.

Average gestation period: 97 days.

Range birth mass: 630 to 812 g.

Average birth mass: 693.2 g.

Range weaning age: 3 to 14 months.

Range time to independence: 15 to 30 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 24 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 40 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Brown hyena mothers usually give birth to their cubs in private satellite dens and then introduce the cubs to the clan’s communal den before they are 4 months old. Mothers nurse their cubs until they are at least 10 months old (in some cases up to 14 months), but it is common for other lactating females to help by allowing non-offspring to nurse as well. Young cubs sometimes indicate a desire to suckle by pushing on the mother’s mammary glands with their front paws, a behavior know as “milk treading”. A typical nursing bout lasts for 25 to 30 minutes, but is sometimes extended if begging persists. Cubs less than 4 months old are fed 2 to 3 times per night, while older, weaning cubs often suckle only once every few nights. During weaning and prior to independence, mothers remain somewhat partial to their own offspring, but all clan members (both male and female) bring back scavenged food for the cubs. Adults carry food back to the den in their mouths and do not regurgitate as in some mammals. Females spend short periods of time sleeping and socializing with cubs near the den between nightly hunts, but both males and females typically sleep further away from the den during the day. Although fathers bring food back to the den, they do so less frequently than females and no more often than other clan males. Aside from bringing back food, paternal care by the alpha male also includes protecting cubs from predators and intruders from other clans. Mothers and other adult females also share in this task. Most cubs become independent by 15 months of age, but may still rely on communal food at the den until they reach 30 months of age.

Parental Investment: male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); post-independence association with parents

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Wiesel, I., Maude, G., Scott, D. & Mills, G.

Reviewer/s
Mills, G. (Hyaena Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Near Threatened as the global population size is estimated to be below 10,000 mature individuals, and experiences a measure of deliberate and incidental persecution such that it may come close to meeting a continuing decline of 10% over the next three generations. Almost qualifies as threatened under criterion C1.

History
  • 1994
    Vulnerable
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Vulnerable
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Southern Africa


Population detail:

Population location: Southern Africa
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Hyaena brunnea, see its USFWS Species Profile

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Brown hyenas are considered near threatened with a decreasing trend by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed them as endangered since 1970. It is difficult to make accurate population estimates of brown hyenas due to their nocturnal lifestyle and low population density. Low population numbers are probably due to sparse resources in the Kalahari and Namib Deserts, as well as persecution from livestock farmers in the area. The establishment of national parks and game reserves in Namibia and Botswana offer the best hope for preserving brown hyena populations.

US Federal List: endangered

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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Status

Classified as Lower Risk / Near Threatened (LR/nt) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
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Population

Population
The total population size on the continent has been estimated as at a minimum of 5,000 to 8,000 individuals, with Botswana having the largest population (an estimated 3,900 animals) (Hofer and Mills 1998b). A recent national population estimate for Namibia (undertaken in 2004) puts the number of Brown Hyaenas at 522 - 1187 animals (Hanssen and Stander 2004).

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Outside protected areas, the Brown Hyaena may come into conflict with humans, and they are often shot, poisoned, trapped and hunted with dogs in predator eradication or control programmes, or inadvertently killed in non-selective control programmes (Mills 1998). In an ongoing survey of land-owners in the North-West province of South Africa, it was apparent that there are still strong negative attitudes towards Brown Hyaenas: nearly half of ~50 interviewees used lethal control in the form of ‘call-in’ and shooting, poisoning or live trapping, with 127 Brown Hyaenas reported to have been killed within the land held by the interviewees (an area of 1613 km²) (D. Scott, R. Yarnell and M. Thorn pers. comm.).

Although used in traditional medicine and rituals, it is not nearly as sought after in this regard as the spotted hyaena (Hofer and Mills 1998b).
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Like the other hyena species, the brown hyena is often the victim of misconceptions, myths and general bad press (5). There is a continuing, but false, belief that brown hyenas threaten domestic livestock, (finding a scavenging hyena at the carcass of livestock is clearly not evidence that it was the killer), and commercial farmers in many parts of its range have killed harmless individuals (7). In reality, brown hyenas rarely kill livestock, and on those occasions, it is believed that killings are often carried out by a particular individual (7). In addition to the threat of persecution, brown hyena are used occasionally in traditional medicine and rituals (7). As a result of this poisoning, trapping and hunting, the overall range of the species is possibly declining (2), and it is now rare, possibly extinct, in the south of its range (6).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Brown Hyaena occur in a number of large conservation areas, including: Namib-Naukluft, Skeleton Coast, Sperrgebiet and Etosha National Parks (Namibia), Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (South Africa, Botswana), Pilanesberg N.P. (South Africa), and the Central Kalahari G.R. (Botswana). However, Brown Hyaenas are still often recorded outside protected areas: in an ongoing survey of nearly 50 landowners in South Africa's North-West Province between October 2006 and May 2007, 67% of interviewees reported sightings of Brown Hyaena on their property with the preceding 12 months (D. Scott, R. Yarnell and M. Thorn pers. comm.).
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Conservation

Despite being persecuted, the future of the brown hyena is a little brighter. Farmers in southern Africa are slowly changing their attitudes towards the hyena (5), and education campaigns and the removal of problem individuals will help support brown hyena conservation (7). The brown hyena also occurs in several National Parks such as Namib-Naukluft Park, Etosha National Park and Sperrgebiet National Park in Namibia, the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana and the Kalahari Gemsbok and Gemsbok National Park in South Africa (7). The maintenance of these protected areas, in combination with efforts to eliminate any human ignorance and intolerance, will hopefully ensure a more optimistic future for this fascinating and intelligent animal.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Hyaena brunnea is viewed as a livestock killer and crop pest by melon farmers. In many cases this is a misconception, with the true killers being African lions, black-backed jackals and spotted hyenas. It has been estimated that over the course of a year at a single cattle post, brown hyenas are responsible for $94 worth of damage to livestock, out of an annual total of $744 worth of damage caused by all predators. On average, it is estimated that brown hyenas kill 1.8 domestic animals per ranch annually. Many farmers set indiscriminate traps and shoot brown hyenas in an attempt to keep their livestock and crops safe.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Some pastoralists in southern Africa feel that brown hyenas are beneficial as a target for ecotourism, which brings money and jobs into the region. Brown hyenas also benefit humans by controlling parasite populations that rely on animal carcasses to feed and reproduce. By reducing the number of carcasses, brown hyenas help decrease chances of parasitic infestation to humans, livestock and domestic pets.

Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Brown hyena

The brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea, formerly Parahyaena brunnea) is a species of hyena found in Namibia, Botswana, western and southern Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and South Africa.[2] It is currently the rarest species of hyena.[3]

Description[edit]

Brown hyenas can measure 86 to 140 cm (34 to 55 in) in head-and-body length, although they average 110 to 125 cm (43 to 49 in). The height at the shoulder is 70 to 80 cm (28 to 31 in)[4] and the tail is 25 to 35 cm (9.8 to 14 in) long.[5] Unlike the larger spotted hyena, there are no sizable differences between the sexes,[6] though males may be slightly larger than the females.[2] The average adult male weighs 40.2 to 43.7 kg (89 to 96 lb), while the average female weighs 37.7 to 40.2 kg (83 to 89 lb).[7][8] The normal upper weight limit for the species is 55 kg (121 lb), although an occasional outsized specimen can weigh up to 67.6 to 72.6 kg (149 to 160 lb).[9] The coat is long and shaggy, particularly on the tail and back.[6] The general fur color is dark brown, while the head is gray, the upper body tawny and the legs grey with dark horizontal stripes. Erectile hairs 305 mm (12 in) in length cover the neck and back.[2] Brown hyenas have powerful jaws: young animals can crack the leg bones of springboks within five minutes of birth, though this ability deteriorates with age as their teeth gradually wear.[3] The skulls of brown hyenas are larger than those of the more northern striped hyenas, and their dentition is more robust, indicating less generalised dietary adaptations.[10] Brown hyenas possess an anal gland below the base of the tail, which produces a black and white paste. The gland has a groove, coated with a white secretion, which divides a pair of lobes which produce a black secretion. These secretions are deposited on grass stalks roughly every quarter mile of their feeding grounds, particularly around territorial borders.

Behavior[edit]

Social behavior[edit]

Brown hyenas have social hierarchy comparable to those of wolves, with an alpha male and alpha female. They are social animals that may live in clans consisting of one adult of each gender and associated young, though there are reports of clans composed of four males and six females. It is thought that in the latter situation, there is at least one dominant male. Brown hyenas maintain a stable clan hierarchy through ritualized aggressive displays and mock fights. They typically forage alone, and do not maintain a territory, instead using common hunting paths. Emigration is common in brown hyena clans, particularly among young males, which will join other groups upon reaching adulthood.[2]

Reproduction[edit]

Female brown hyenas are polyestrous and typically produce their first litter when they are two years old. They mate primarily from May to August, the gestation period lasting 97 days.[2] Unlike aardwolves, female brown hyenas mate with nomadic males or the dominant male member of their own clan. Clan males display no resistance, and will assist the females in raising their cubs.[3] Females give birth in dens, which are hidden in remote sand dunes far from the territories of spotted hyenas and lions. Mothers generally produce one litter every 20 months. Usually, only the dominant female breeds, but if two litters are born in the same clan, the mothers will nurse each other's cubs, though favoring their own.[3] Litters usually consist of 1-5 cubs, which weigh 1 kg (2.2 lbs) at birth.[2] Unlike spotted hyenas,[3] brown hyenas are born with their eyes closed, and open them after eight days. Cubs leave their dens after four months.[2] Also unlike spotted hyenas, all adult members of the clan will carry food back to the cubs.[3] They are not fully weaned and do not leave the vicinity of their den until they reach 14 months of age.[2]

Dietary habits[edit]

Brown hyenas are primarily scavengers, the bulk of their diet consisting of carcasses killed by larger predators, though they may supplement their diet with rodents, insects, eggs, fruit and fungi (the desert truffle Kalaharituber pfeilii[11]). However, brown hyenas are aggressive scavengers, frequently appropriating the kills of black-backed jackals, cheetahs, and leopards, including adult male leopards.[12][13] Single brown hyenas will charge leopards at kills with jaws held wide open and have treed adult male leopards;[14] sometimes, brown hyenas have been observed treeing leopards even when no kill was in contention.[15] In the Kalahari desert, brown hyenas are often the dominant mammalian carnivores present because of their dominance over the other predators listed above, and because of the scarcity of lions, spotted hyenas, and packs of African wild dogs.[12] In areas where they may overlap, Brown hyenas may rarely be killed by spotted hyenas and lions.[16]

Brown hyenas will cache excess food in shrubs or holes and recover it within 24 hours.[2] Brown hyenas are poor hunters, and live prey makes up only a small proportion of their diet: in the southern Kalahari, species such as springhare, springbok lambs, bat-eared foxes and korhaan species make up only 4.2% of their overall diet,[17] while on the Namib coast, cape fur seal pups compose 2.9% of the brown hyenas dietary intake.[18] In the Kalahari, brown hyenas are active 80% of the time at night searching for food in an area spanning 31.1 km (19.3 mi), with 54.4 km (33.8 mi) being recorded.[17] Their powerful sense of smell allows them to track even old carcasses 2 km (1.2 mi) downwind.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wiesel, I., Maude, G., Scott, D. & Mills, G. (2008). Hyaena brunnea. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 13 May 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is near threatened
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Walker's carnivores of the world by Ronald M. Nowak, published by JHU Press, 2005
  3. ^ a b c d e f Chapter 4: Rich Man's Table from David MacDonald’s The Velvet Claw BBC books, 1992
  4. ^ "Brown Hyaena - Hyaena brunnea - Interesting Facts". netscype.com. 7 October 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2013. 
  5. ^ [1] (2011).
  6. ^ a b The behavior guide to African mammals: including hoofed mammals, carnivores, primates by Richard Estes, published by the University of California Press, 1991
  7. ^ [2] (2011).
  8. ^ [3] (2011).
  9. ^ [4] (2011).
  10. ^ V.G Heptner & A.A. Sludskii. Mammals of the Soviet Union, Volume II, Part 2. ISBN 90-04-08876-8. 
  11. ^ Trappe JM, Claridge AW, Arora D, Smit WA. (2008). "Desert truffles of the Kalahari: ecology, ethnomycology and taxonomy". Economic Botany 62 (3): 521–529. 
  12. ^ a b Owens, Mark and Owens, Delia. Cry of the Kalahari.1984. pp. 133-5.
  13. ^ "Hyenas of the Kalahari". Owens, Delia and Owens,Mark. Natural History. 89(2):p50 (February 1980)/
  14. ^ Owens, Mark and Owens, Delia. Cry of the Kalahari. 1984. pp. 133-5.
  15. ^ "Hyenas of the Kalahari". Owens, Delia and Owens,Mark. Natural History. 89(2):p50 (February 1980).
  16. ^ [5]
  17. ^ a b c Mills, M.G.L. 1990. Kalahari hyaenas: the comparative behavioral ecology of two species. Unwin Hyman, London.
  18. ^ Goss, R.A. 1986. The influence of food source on the behavioral ecology of brown hyaenas Hyaena brunnea in the Namib Desert. MSc thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria.
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