Friday, August 28, 2009

Spotted Hyenas in Botswana

DSC07675 spotted hyena
Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)

In a clearing near the airstrip of Stanley’s Camp, located in the Okavango Delta of Botswana, we encountered a clan of spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta).

From a distance we could see some standing sentry in every direction while others napped in the tall dry grass of the savannah.

DSC07650 hyenas

DSC07670 Hyena Sentries

Though their silhouette is more canine, their fluffy fur coat suggests their feline roots.

DSC07674 spotted hyena

Our guide, Poniso, knew right away that they had just eaten; observing the red blood coating their necks and legs with their heavy bellies hanging low to the ground.

DSC07664 spotted hyena with full tummy

The quiet lazy mood indicates that there was enough for everyone, even sufficient to produce rich milk for young cubs. Spotted hyena milk has the highest protein content of any terrestrial carnivore, second only to polar bear milk.

DSC07663 spotted hyena nursing

Cubs shed their brownish-black coat at age two to three months and then they develop the spotted coat.

DSC07680 spotted hyena cubs

Hyenas are well-equipped predators. They have the second most acidic digestive system in the animal kingdom, after the crocodile, allowing them to tolerate bacteria from carrion. Their strong jaws are capable of eating entire animals, pulverizing bones, horns, and teeth. Their scat is chalky white, filled with the calcium from the bones.

DSC07932 hyena scat

Completing the eco-cycle, the African Leopard Tortoise eats this dung to fortify its shell.

DSC07669 spotted hyena

Though their skulking profile probably contributes to the hyena’s sinister reputation, they looked like real pussycats to me.
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