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.


PixieDust said...

Yup, always portrayed as the "bad guys" they are really fascinating to watch. These images are wonderful!


Elizabeth Bradley said...

Here in Southern California we have coyotes, many hate them, but they are remarkably adept at surviving and I have a soft spot for them. This was an interesting post!

Sherri said...

I guess it's a good thing they had just eaten! Cool pictures!

CC said...

Fascinating info and terrific photos.

Relyn Lawson said...

I always learn such cool things when I stop by. Take care.

LoisW said...

I don't much about these animals, but the photos are truly amazing!

margie said...

so much for the laughing hyenas. they don't look funny to me. poor things.

Vagabonde said...

what an informative and interesting post. The fur of the hyena in the first picture looks very nice and soft – I had not expected that. You took some great shots.

A Cuban In London said...

How I missed your blog whilst I was away! And your reporting is still second to none. Hyenas give me the creeps. I can tolerate just about any animal, but these half-felines, half-canines don't go down very well with 'moi'. Lovely pictures and even the cubs look cute, but when they grow I will be standing many miles away :-).

Greetings from London.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear PixieDust,
They were truly fascinating and didn't seem like "bad guys" at all. But fortunately I didn't see them when they were famished.

Dear Elizabeth Bradley,
We have coyotes up here in Northern California also; they hang out in our nature preserves. I enjoy seeing them loping about when we visit Yosemite. I think they are beautiful creatures.

Dear Postcards and Coasters,
Yup, a real good thing. Thanks!

Dear CC,
Thank you!

Dear Relyn,
And I am always inspired when I stop by "Come Sit By My Fire"

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Middle Aged Woman Blogging,
I knew next to nothing about them but our guide Poniso was a wealth of information.

Dear margie,
Didn't hear them laugh even once. They were not as homely as I thought they would be.

Dear Vagabonde,
I was completely surprised to learn that hyenas are in the cat family.

Dear Cuban In London,
And I have missed you! Thanks for your kind compliment :)

I was so surprised that they did not give me the creeps at all. The crocodiles that we saw later in the trip, now that's another story altogether. Yes, a little foreshadowing revealed here...

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