Hyena’s future no laughing matter

Hyena’s future no laughing matter

THE Commercial Bank of Namibia, through its Go Green Fund, is supporting the Brown Hyena Research Project at Luederitz.

The brown hyena is one of Africa’s large carnivores. They occur in Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia.Their total population is estimated at between 5 000 and 8 000 animals, which makes them one of the rarest large carnivores.In Namibia, 800 to 1 200 brown hyenas occur with 50 per cent living in the coastal areas of the Namib Desert.The conservation status of the brown hyena in Namibia is extremely vulnerable and it is likely to become endangered if present declining population trends continue.SOCIAL BEINGBrown hyenas weigh around 40 kg and have a typical hyena build with a strong muscular neck and shoulders and smaller hind legs.Unlike other hyena species, the brown hyena’s shoulders are covered in long hair.The brown hyena is a social animal that lives in groups called clans.Most clan members are related and usually one female gives birth to a litter of one to four cubs.The cubs are raised in dens, which are also the social meeting point of the clan.All clan members bring food back to the den to feed the cubs.A brown hyena can carry a 20 kg seal as far as 10 km without any problem.It takes the cub 15 months to be fully weaned and to be ready to leave the den.During this time, the whole clan spends a lot of time with the cubs, playing and socialising.The cubs learn social behaviour through this training.While searching for food, a brown hyena can cover a distance of 40 km in one night.They eat nearly everything they can find – fruit, insects and mammals.They are the only large predator along the Namib Desert coastline, with the black-backed jackal their only competitor.The mainland Cape fur seal colonies along the coast serve as an important food supply.Brown hyena visit these colonies to feed on fresh carcasses or to kill seal pubs.This food source is available throughout the year and the hyenas in this region are in especially good condition.THE PROJECTThe Brown Hyena Research Project was founded in 1997 by Ingrid Wiesel and initially addressed conservation issues with the help of ecological and behavioural research on brown hyenas and their main prey, the Cape fur seal.The objective now is to carry out research into the brown hyena in its natural habitat to ensure the long-term conservation and survival of free-ranging brown hyenas; and to study the influence of mining activities, the destruction of habitat and to record changes in activity patters, behaviour and reproductive success.Commercial Bank’s Go Green fund has made N$60 000 available over three years in support of the Baker’s Bay pre- and post-impact study.This involves studying diamond mining activities in that area with special emphasis on the destruction of the brown hyenas’ natural habitat.With the help of GPS collars, the movements of the brown hyena can be monitored and the influence of human disturbances can be monitored.GPS telemetry is also very important as the habitat of the brown hyena is extremely inhospitable and enormous, thus making it extremely difficult to research this species.Although the brown hyena has no natural predators, population size is dwindling because of human influence.”People will often drive off the road to kill a brown hyena,” said Wiesel.Often they are also caught in snares set for other animals or are even stoned to death by people.Brown hyenas are scavengers and are often found wandering the streets of Luederitz and the town’s surrounding areas.However, because they are endangered, Wiesel is appealing to the public to ignore them as they mean no harm and to report any dead animals for research purposes.They occur in Angola, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia.Their total population is estimated at between 5 000 and 8 000 animals, which makes them one of the rarest large carnivores.In Namibia, 800 to 1 200 brown hyenas occur with 50 per cent living in the coastal areas of the Namib Desert.The conservation status of the brown hyena in Namibia is extremely vulnerable and it is likely to become endangered if present declining population trends continue.SOCIAL BEINGBrown hyenas weigh around 40 kg and have a typical hyena build with a strong muscular neck and shoulders and smaller hind legs.Unlike other hyena species, the brown hyena’s shoulders are covered in long hair.The brown hyena is a social animal that lives in groups called clans.Most clan members are related and usually one female gives birth to a litter of one to four cubs.The cubs are raised in dens, which are also the social meeting point of the clan.All clan members bring food back to the den to feed the cubs.A brown hyena can carry a 20 kg seal as far as 10 km without any problem.It takes the cub 15 months to be fully weaned and to be ready to leave the den.During this time, the whole clan spends a lot of time with the cubs, playing and socialising.The cubs learn social behaviour through this training.While searching for food, a brown hyena can cover a distance of 40 km in one night.They eat nearly everything they can find – fruit, insects and mammals.They are the only large predator along the Namib Desert coastline, with the black-backed jackal their only competitor.The mainland Cape fur seal colonies along the coast serve as an important food supply.Brown hyena visit these colonies to feed on fresh carcasses or to kill seal pubs.This food source is available throughout the year and the hyenas in this region are in especially good condition.THE PROJECTThe Brown Hyena Research Project was founded in 1997 by Ingrid Wiesel and initially addressed conservation issues with the help of ecological and behavioural research on brown hyenas and their main prey, the Cape fur seal.The objective now is to carry out research into the brown hyena in its natural habitat to ensure the long-term conservation and survival of free-ranging brown hyenas; and to study the influence of mining activities, the destruction of habitat and to record changes in activity patters, behaviour and reproductive success.Commercial Bank’s Go Green fund has made N$60 000 available over three years in support of the Baker’s Bay pre- and post-impact study.This involves studying diamond mining activities in that area with special emphasis on the destruction of the brown hyenas’ natural habitat.With the help of GPS collars, the movements of the brown hyena can be monitored and the influence of human disturbances can be monitored.GPS telemetry is also very important as the habitat of the brown hyena is extremely inhospitable and enormous, thus making it extremely difficult to research this species.Although the brown hyena has no natural predators, population size is dwindling because of human influence.”People will often drive off the road to kill a brown hyena,” said Wiesel.Often they are also caught in snares set for other animals or are even stoned to death by people.Brown hyenas are scavengers and are often found wandering the streets of Luederitz and the town’s surrounding areas.However, because they are endangered, Wiesel is appealing to the public to ignore them as they mean no harm and to report any dead animals for research purposes.

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