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Interesting Facts About Striped Hyena

Stripped Hyena – As the sun sets over the East African plains, casting a golden-orange glow, the distinctive calls of spotted hyenas echo through the air with eerie intensity. Renowned for their cunning intelligence, these hyenas form cohesive groups to hunt, defend territories, and venture out alone for foraging expeditions. Meanwhile, amidst the rocky outcrops bordering the plains, another hyena species lurks silently. The striped hyena, rarely encountered and enigmatic, remains elusive and mysterious, shying away from the limelight and preferring the shadows.

Basics about the Striped Hyenas

Striped-Hyena

In Africa, the elusive striped hyena often remains overshadowed by its more assertive and conspicuous spotted and brown relatives. Consequently, many are unaware of the presence of this hyena species on the continent, even though the aardwolf garners more recognition. Despite being a significant carnivore, the striped hyena’s remarkably secretive behavior has led to limited research, particularly in Africa. Nonetheless, this air of mystery surrounding them renders them intriguing, given our scant knowledge of a species within one of the primary carnivore families.

Most of what we understand about striped hyena behavior stems from populations in Asia, as they are the only hyena species found outside of Africa. Research on the behavioral ecology of African striped hyenas is sparse, primarily relying on a few published papers and anecdotal evidence.

Despite the scarcity of data, striped hyenas are distributed across much of North and East Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of West Africa, albeit in low densities. They favor semi-arid regions but avoid deserts or dense forests. In areas where striped hyenas coexist with spotted hyenas, they are often outnumbered and outcompeted. Unlike their spotted counterparts, striped hyenas primarily scavenge for food, although they occasionally hunt small prey when opportunities arise.

Quick Facts About The Striped Hyenas

Social structure:  Solitary or small family groups
Shoulder height: 60-80cm
Mass: between 22-55kg (average 35kg)
Gestation period: 90 days
Litter size: 1-5 cubs
Life expectancy:probably around 12 years in the wild but over 20 years in captivity

Their Private Lives And Social Tendencies

The evolutionary trajectory towards social or solitary survival strategies is as pivotal as the anatomical characteristics of a species. Sociality development is influenced by resource distribution, spatial utilization, and competition with other predators. Within the Hyaenidae family, the diversity of social structures is a subject of fascination for researchers. Spotted hyenas, as highly social apex predators, exhibit intricate hierarchies and cooperative hunting. Conversely, aardwolves, mostly monogamous, form pairs but forage individually, while brown hyenas typically live in small groups but primarily hunt or forage alone, displaying behaviorally solitary tendencies.

Initially perceived as entirely solitary, striped hyenas have presented a more intricate social dynamic in recent years. Field studies and camera traps have unveiled group behaviors, with observations of up to seven individuals resting, feeding, and traveling together. Instances of sub-adults assisting in cub rearing and males attending dens hint at a nuanced social structure akin to brown hyenas. Notably, reports of a striped hyena integrating into a wolf pack underscore potential social inclinations.

Understanding the behavioral nuances of striped hyenas remains an ongoing endeavor. This research not only contributes academically but also significantly impacts conservation efforts. The sociality of an animal often correlates with population density, necessitating a reassessment of population assessments through a social behavioral lens to effectively inform conservation strategies.

Family Resemblance

Striped-Hyena

While the striped fur and dense mane of the striped hyena may initially evoke comparisons with the aardwolf, closer examination reveals a stronger resemblance to the brown hyena. Stripping away the fur reveals almost identical body shapes between the two, with the brown possessing a more robust skull.

Unlike the rounded ears of the spotted hyena, both the brown and striped hyenas feature more dog-like and expressive ears. Primarily scavengers, both species boast bone-crushing jaw strength and massive carnassial molars, albeit lacking the spotted’s formidable head and neck power. Their short torsos and reduced hindlimbs accentuate the characteristic sloping posture typical of the hyena family.

These physical similarities are mirrored in the phylogenetic relationships within the Hyaenidae family. The aardwolf, a specialized termite-eater, stands distantly related to the other three species. The spotted hyena diverged over 10 million years ago, while the brown and striped hyenas share a common ancestor. Like spotted hyenas, striped hyenas likely evolved in Africa before spreading north and east into Europe and Asia.

However, unlike the spotted hyena, which vanished from these regions due to habitat loss and competition with wolves and humans, the smaller striped hyena endured. Understanding the reasons behind this survival, likely tied to differences in social structure, lies at the core of unraveling their evolutionary strategies.

Bad Omen and Fertility Symbols

Throughout history and across diverse cultures, humans have imbued animal parts with a myriad of superstitions and beliefs, often in pursuit of increased reproductive prowess. In contemporary times, rhino horns, tiger bones, and pangolin scales are among the many coveted items believed to possess mystical powers. In ancient Greek and Roman societies, the striped hyena garnered attention as a symbol of fertility, with various parts of the animal, including its amulet, purportedly conferring irresistible charm upon its wearer.

However, this positive association with hyenas was an anomaly, as most cultures across Africa and Asia harbor negative mythologies surrounding these creatures. Often depicted as symbols of evil spirits or witches’ mounts, striped hyenas have faced persecution throughout history, exacerbated by their reputation for grave robbing.

Today, the striped hyena is classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List, with dwindling numbers estimated at fewer than 10,000 mature individuals. However, accurately assessing their population is challenging due to their preference for rugged habitats and elusive nature. Compounding this difficulty is the absence of recognized subspecies, despite notable size differences between Asian and African specimens. Those inhabiting the Middle East, Asia Minor, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent are typically larger than their counterparts in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, conserving striped hyenas poses a formidable task, underscored by the need for updated assessments and targeted conservation efforts.

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