Hyena Research in Victoria Falls
The Zambezi Hyena Project was initiated in August 2015 by the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA) and Lion Encounter (LE). Since then, a number of milestones have been attained and new research questions have arisen pertaining to the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) population in Zambezi National Park (ZNP) and surround.
As one of the apex predators, hyenas have an important ecological role for maintaining prey populations and controlling the disease. As predators, they are often involved in incidences of human-wildlife conflict. Understanding the ecology and behaviour of the spotted hyena is of great conservation importance to provide evidence-based management guidelines for conservation practitioners, researchers and reserve managers and mitigation of conflict with humans.
This project aims to assess the population ecology of the spotted hyenas and also their relationship with their key competitors such as lions. The survey also aims to identify key habitat elements which are the den sites and establish a description of the hyenas in terms of their mortality and survival as well as establish their key food sources.
Hyena is chiefly nocturnal, therefore studying them entails a great deal of challenging night work. monitoring a small number of collared individuals, coupled with the use of camera traps is yielding valuable information on the population size, movements and home ranges of the hyena within the park and surrounding areas. Scat analysis is providing further information on the diets and prey preferences. Increasing the number of monitored individuals will produce more comprehensive data and improve our emerging understanding of the population and its dynamics.