Spotted hyena den sites are used by adult females for the safe keeping of their young, and are often communal. Several litters can be found at a single den site, although mothers do not stay with the cubs during the day, but come back to nurse them during the late hours of the afternoon.
Dusk is therefore a perfect time to monitor aspects of the species’ social behaviour, as several females can arrive at the den around the same time to interact with each other, and suckle their young; following which the cubs take the opportunity to play and explore.
We identified a den site early this month and have been closely monitoring what has been going on there. This den is located in an open grassland area of Zambezi National Park, within a kilometre of a water source.
So far, we have identified at least five adult females that are utilising this den. We have also identified at least six juveniles and two sub-adults that currently call the den home. Behavioural data collection from these hyenas is assisting us to understand the repertoire of spotted hyena behaviours.
About the Zambezi National Park Hyena Project
Large mammal carnivores play an important role in maintaining a balance between the ungulate population and the environment. However, when carnivore numbers increase, certain age classes of the ungulate population can be negatively affected. Spotted hyena, contrary to popular thought, do hunt extensively and predate mainly on the juvenile age class, although they will also take down adult animals. Spotted hyena are the most common and abundant large mammal predator in many African ecosystems. In Zambezi National Park and surrounding areas it has been reported that there is little recruitment into the juvenile age class in the large ungulate population and it is hypothesized that this is due to a large spotted hyena population. In addition, reports have been received that hyena are significantly involved in livestock predation in nearby human-populated areas. To date no studies have been carried out on spotted hyena in the area and this study will look at the population dynamics of this species in the areas mentioned to obtain population size, population dynamics, recruitment, home-range, prey preference and interaction with livestock. The interaction between lions and hyena will also be studied as these two species are major competitors and are known to limit population growth within their populations. This study will be undertaken as a joint project between the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust and is expected to last at least three years. At the end of the study management recommendations will be presented to ZPWMA.