October 6, 2017
Hail the Hyena
- as seen by -Brandon Moore
Famed for their unique “laugh,” spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), emit this vocalization during times of anxious excitement or frustration. And although this laugh is what they’re known for, spotted hyenas are actually capable of producing almost a dozen different complex vocalizations helping them to cooperate, coordinate, and compete with one another.
Hyenas receive a bad rap due to their scavenger feeding strategy leading many people to believe that they only steal their meals. However, studies have shown that at least 50 percent of their food is skillfully hunted on their own. Although their opportunistic scavenging is accompanied by a negative stigma, hyenas actually help keep the ecosystem clean by consuming dead matter normally left behind from other carnivores.
Spotted hyenas live in female-dominated groups known as clans. These structured, socially complex groups are governed by a strict hierarchy and may consist of up to 80 members. Females are not only dominant over the males, they are physically larger as well. You can notice this difference in the above photo of our resident pair at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo.
This highly intelligent species deserves more credit than it receives. The next time you’re at the Bronx Zoo, make sure to stop by the hyena exhibit to say hello and appreciate the qualities that make the spotted hyena so unique.