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Hyenas: your image problem
Admittedly, they are not exactly the most popular animals on the African savannah. If you listen to conversations about hyenas, terms such as “ugly”, “cowardly”, “insidious” and “unscrupulous” come up. But what is it about the negative image of these often underestimated animals?
Hyenas play an important role in many of Africa's ecosystems. Their extremely strong jaws and their very acidic gastric juice can digest almost anything animal. As scavengers, they play an indispensable role in eliminating animal carcasses and thus in preventing epidemics. By eating and digesting animal bones, hyenas also recycle calcium and return it to the environment, where it can be used by other living things. For example, tortoises eat hyenas' droppings in order to absorb the calcium it contains and to strengthen their shells.
When hyenas hunt, they mainly focus on old and sick prey. This strengthens animal herds and regulates their population density. So they in no way harm the environment or other animal species, but rather make an important contribution to ecological balance.
Hyenas have distinctive social behavior based on matriarchal structures with close bonds between females. The suckling and protective behavior towards their offspring is very pronounced. Young animals stay in the underground burrow for a long time before they go on an exploration tour with their mother for the first time.
It is interesting that the sexes of the hyenas are difficult to distinguish, since both males and females appear to have a penis. In fact, the supposed penis of the female is an elongated clitoris and the scrotum an adapted labia. These adaptations are presumably due to increased testosterone levels during the embryonic growth of the animals. This enables the females to be more assertive towards the males and to subordinate themselves to them.
But what is the truth of the accusation that hyenas are cowards? Regardless of whether it is appropriate to apply human standards to animals, hyenas can hardly be said to be cowards, as they would take on almost any other predator except the lion. Hyenas do like to sneak around lions that have just hunted prey to get a piece of the cake, but perhaps this is more clever than cowardly.
Whether hyenas are ugly or not is up to the viewer. As is well known, beauty is relative. The task of nature conservation is to protect all species and to understand their importance in the complex structure of communities. Hyenas are important and interesting animals that are essential to the ecosystems in which they occur.
On numerous Natucate trips you have the opportunity to experience these fascinating animals in the wild - for example as part of a ranger course in Botswana or a safari trip in Zambia.
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