Zambezi National Park Hyena Project
Recently, and operating under a permit issued by the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), ALERT collared a hyena as part of a joint study with ZPWMA into the hyena population of the Zambezi National Park. During the initial weeks following the collaring the data was already starting to provide a valuable insight into the population dynamics of this species in this locale.
However, a report has been received from a ZPWMA park ranger that whilst patrolling in the Park on Tuesday 29th September he approached a water hole after hearing distress calls from a herd of sable. On arrival at the waterhole he discovered the herd along with 10 or 11 hyena, that were presumably trying to hunt the sable.
The ranger quickly left the site, returning later the same day, by which time the animals had dispersed. He discovered the body of the collared hyena that was later fed upon by vultures. During the night a number of hyena also fed on the carcass. The ranger recovered the collar and reported the incident.
This event is a clear disappointment for ALERT, ZPWMA and for the study of hyena in this Park, however such events do happen in the wild. Sable are large antelope with formidable horns and any predator hunting large species do so at the risk of injury or death.
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.