Common Name: Spotted Hyena
Scientific Name: Crocuta crocuta
A day of summer fun at a mudhole
Description: Although commonly called scavengers, hyenas typically scavenge less than a third of their diet. And in certain areas of Africa, lions steal more kills from hyenas than vice versa. You may even see some incredible footage of this behavior during the Safari Canyon presentation. For an additional look into the world of lions and hyenas, check out National Geographic's Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas. You'll definitely see video proof there is no love lost between these two species.In fact, hyenas are Africa's second largest predator capable of killing prey three times their own weight. Unlike many other predators, hyenas do not stalk their prey. They run them down. Hyenas can lope along tirelessly at 6 mph, gallop 25 to 30 mph for at least two miles, and rush at top speeds over 35 mph.
The spotted hyena is also called the laughing hyena. This laughing is called "giggling" by zoologists and is typically emitted to express fear or anxious excitement. Other animals know that when they hear a lot of laughing, that usually means that hyenas have a kill. Because of this, lions or other hyenas will approach the noise in hopes of stealing a free meal.
Range: Africa south of Sahara, except in harsh desert
Diet: Carnivorous: wildebeest, zebra, Thomson's gazelle, Grant's gazelle, topi, etc.
Recommended LINKS & BOOKS
Africam's Field Guide page on spotted hyenas.
A good book on hyenas and other predators is Hugo van Lawick and Jane Goodall's Innocent Killers. It's out of print, but you can typically find it used at Amazon.com. Another excellent text is Hans Kruuk's Spotted Hyena: A Study of Predation and Social Behavior. Again it's out of print (seems the best animal texts often are) but you can usually find a used copy listing at Amazon.com. You can search for them using the link below.
This is a great book to have and it's just been updated. And if you're planning a trip to Africa, make sure to read this first and then bring it with you! It's that good. Click here to buy.
Dr. David Macdonald's Encyclopedia of Mammals is one of the great standards for mammal information including the hyenas. Purchase it through Amazon.com by clicking on the photo to help the zoo!
Another excellent text on African mammals is The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals.