Creative and Critical Thinking ( Hyaena )

What is a Hyaena?
Hyaenidae refers to the family of extinct and living hyaenas (called 'hyenas' in North America). 
Although the hyaena family once contained a large number of species, only four members of the family persist on earth today.
These animals are very important and influential inhabitants of most African and some Asian ecosystems. 

Types of Hyaena

Brown hyaena
(Parahyaena brunnea)

• Weight: 45 kg
• Feeding Habits: Brown hyaenas prefer to dine on carrion, wild fruits, insects and eggs. 

• Brown hyaenas rarely kill small animals.Small livestock, particularly young, can be protected from brown   hyaenas and jackals at night by being placed in bush enclosures.

• Although brown hyaenas are solitary when looking for food, family members share a territory. Some males are nomads.  All family members help to feed the young.

Physical Description

• This medium-sized, dog-like animal has long forelegs and well developed forequarters, but weak
hindquarters and a sloping back. The pelage is long, shaggy and dark brown to black except around the neck
and shoulders, which are white.

• The underparts are light coloured, and the lower forefeet and hindfeet have white stripes. The ears are long
and pointed.

• Adults usually weight around 40 kg (28-47 kg) .There is little difference in size or coloration between the
sexes, with males being just slightly larger than females. On average males weight 43.7 kg, whereas females
weight 40.2 kg.

Distribution and Habitat

• The brown hyaena inhabits the South West Arid Zone of Africa . The largest remaining populations
are in the southern Kalahari and the coastal areas in Southwest Africa.

• 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 savannah with a maximum rainfall up to about 650

• 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.

• Along coastal areas of its range the brown hyaena is often found scavenging along beaches.

• The brown hyaena is primarily a scavenger of a wide range of vertebrate remains; carrion is supplemented
by wild fruit, insects, birds' eggs and the occasional small animal, which is killed.

Striped hyaena 
(Hyaena hyaena

• Striped hyenas occur in grasslands, open woodlands, and bushy regions, usually in rugged terrain.
• Far less is known about these animals than about any other extant hyaenid.
• Striped hyenas usually weight 30 to 35 kg, and like brown hyenas, stand roughly 70 cm tall at the shoulder.
• Hyaena always forage solitarily, usually at night, but may lie up during the day in pairs or groups of up to
four individuals, although such groups never contain more than one adult female.

Physical Description

• The striped hyaena is a medium-sized carnivore with overall appearance reminiscent of a dog. It has a back sloping downwards towards the tail, and black vertical stripes on the sides.

•Its general colour is pale grey or beige.

• The head is roundish with a pointed muzzle and long, pointed ears. It has a mane along the mid-dorsal line which can be held erect.

• The longest hairs fall along the mid-dorsal line and the black dorsal mane may be held erect, significantly increasing the apparent size of the animal.

• Its black and white tail is long and bushy, with hair that is generally coarse and long. The feet have four toes and short, blunt, non-retractable claws

•Body mass varies between 26 and 41kg for males and 26 and 34kg for females.

Distribution and Habitat

• The striped hyaena has a very large range extending through the Middle East, Caucus region, Central Asia,
and the Indian sub-continent, with its southern and western limits in Africa. 

• Absent from the Central Sahara, the distribution in Africa extends eastward from Senegal along the extent of
the North African coast into Egypt and into the Central African states of Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and

• The current distribution is patchy and West African, Middle Eastern, Caucus, and Central Asian populations
are likely composed of isolated small populations.


• This animals have been reported to consume a wide variety of vertebrates, invertebrates,
vegetables, fruit, and human originated organic wastes.

• The striped hyaena scavenges carrion and the remains of kills of other predators (wolf,spotted hyaena, cheetah, leopard, lion, tiger)


Spotted hyaena 
(Crocuta crocuta)

• These animals weigh 45-85 kg as adults, depending on sex (males weight less than females).
• Spotted hyaenas are hunters and scavengers and can even chase lions away from their kills.
• Spotted hyaenas are intelligent, noisy and gregarious, living in groups of as few as five or as many as 80 individuals.
• They produce unusually small litters relative to dogs or cats; spotted hyaenas give birth to 1 or 2 cubs (very
rarely 3) at a time, and the mother typically feeds her young with rich milk for many months, often for over one year.

Physical Description
• This large, dog-like animal has a spotted coat and is strongly built. Its general colour is sandy, ginger or dull
grey to greyish brown, with blackish or dark brown spots on the back, flanks, rump, and legs.
Spots may turn brown and fade with age.

• The forelegs are longer than the hind legs so that the back slopes downwards to the base of the tail. The
long, thick neck provides a highly muscular structure that complements the powerful cutting and ripping
movements of the massive jaws.

• The hyaena's jaws are sufficiently powerful to generate enormous bite forces. The head is large, rounded
and powerful with a short and blunt muzzle.

• Their four-toed feet have short, blunt, non-retractable claws and broad and flat pads. They have a short tail,
comprised of approximately 24 cm of bone with an added 12 cm of hair only.Body mass ranges from 45 kg
for males and 55 kg for females in the Serengeti.

Distribution and Habitat

• Spotted hyaenas are the most abundant large carnivore in Africa.

• There are four of the habitat types in which spotted hyaenas occur: the open grassland
of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania , the forests of Aberdares National Park in Kenya, the Namib desert in Namibia and the Okavango Delta of Botswana.


• The spotted hyaena is still widely regarded as a scavenger that picks up leftovers at the kills of other
carnivores (cheetah, leopard, lion) or feeds on carrion. However, this is not correct: all studies demonstrate
that the spotted hyaena is an efficient predator in its own right.

• Although spotted hyaenas will scavenge opportunistically, they kill as much as 95% of the food they eat.

• The spotted hyaena is impressively versatile in its choice of prey, as its food varies greatly between
ecosystems. In addition, it has developed a wide diversity of hunting techniques.


 (Proteles cristata, Proteles cristatus)

• Weight : approximately 10 kg.
• The aardwolf's favourite food is insects, especially termites, which they help to control.
• Aardwolves cannot kill livestock, yet many aardwolves are killed each year because people believe they kill
• Aardwolves are family oriented, with males and females living together in a territory.

Physical Description

• The aardwolf is slightly larger than a jackal or a fox and has long, slender legs and a long neck. Its sloping
back is not as pronounced as in the three other hyaena species.

• The background colour of the body varies from yellowish-white to rufous.

• The throat and underparts are paler and can reach a greyish-white color.

• There are three vertical black stripes on the body and one or two diagonal stripes across the fore- and
hindquarters. Irregular horizontal stripes run across the legs, which are darker distally, and grade into solid
colored feet. Facial hair is very short and gray.

• Proteles cristata also has a black mane extending from head to tail which can be erected to make the
individual appear larger when threatened.

Distribution and Habitat

• Aardwolves occur solely on the continent of Africa. There are two separate populations. One population is
found in southern Africa (including the countries of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe,
southern Angola, southern Zambia, and southwestern Mozambique). 

• The other northern population ranges from central Tanzania through northeastern Uganda, Kenya, Somalia,
along the coast of Ethiopia and Sudan, and the southeastern tip of Egypt .


• Aardwolf only feeds primarily on one local species of nasute harvester termite
(genus Trinervitermes).