Cute and carnivorous, how do these go together? Via a babyface! Look, ain’t it cute?
So today’s post is on Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). Aside from them are three more extant species of hyenas: Brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea), Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) and Aardwolf (Proteles cristata). The Tierpark Friedrichsfelde in Berlin houses three of the four (Brown, Striped, Spotted). Among them, the Spotted hyenas are the most interesting to visitors, because they form a large group, regularly have babies, and play around a lot. Whenever I see the Striped hyenas, in contrast, they either pace about or rest. The brown hyenas – to be perfectly honest, I rarely notice them. And if I do, they rest. I’d bet money that all three species are equally interesting to watch if you have time, but because my zoo visits always involve two quite impatient juvenile Homo sapiens, I rarely have time unless the animal in view happens to be a siren, an elephant, a tiger or a fish.
The spotted hyenas have a fairly large enclosure, mostly open grass, with a water moat between them and the visitors on one side, and a fence (sturdy!) on the other. I’ve seen people get very close, but so far I haven’t seen anyone risk their fingers -yet. The moat is often visited by ducks, including hatchlings, and as far as I know there haven’t been any instances of archosaurophagia – yet.
Here’s more of the little cub, and its sibling, who was fooling around with mom.
Hyenas are fascinating animals. Far from being the cowardly pack that scares the valiant lion from its prey, it is often the Spotted hyenas who hunt successfully at night, and have to give up their prey to the larger predator. On the other hand, Striped hyenas are primarily scavengers, and Aardwolves eat mainly termites.And here’s my chance to get some dinosaur into this post: go read Brian Switek’s SciAm post on the hunter/scavenger debate on T. rex, which has a hyena in the title 😉
The social life of Spotted hyenas is weird, with dominant females looking like males, and being larger than them (as opposed to other species). By the way, check out this SciAm post on how reproductive success and evolutionary fitness of male spotted hyenas is affected by the social status of his mother.