The Spotted Hyena, despite its reputation, is one of the most fascinating and successful carnivores in sub-Saharan Africa. Long considered a ‘hermaphrodite’ the Hyena female has ‘pseudo male genitals’ that have been believed to have developed because of its social structure and an increase in testosterone in its fetal stages. Highly social, based on female controlled clans, the hyena competes with the lion as the ‘super predator’ in savanna systems.
With a skull that can weigh over 3 kgs, a heart almost twenty times the relative size of a lions, and the strongest jaws amongst the carnivores; mean the hyena is a supreme predator and in some areas it is they who lose kills to lions and not always vice versa.
Hyenas den communally, do not allo-suckle, and usually have two offspring. It still is not proven whether they have high incidences of siblicide as do the Serengeti Hyenas. The dens are changed every few months due to parasites, and immigrant males mate with clan females, whilst males emigrate at puberty (about 2 years old). The females have 14 day long estrus cycles at intervals of 1-1.5 years and a gestation lasts 4 months. The cubs (Hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs, actually even more so to mongooses) take meat by 2.5 months but are not weaned off milk until past 1year.
In the Maasai Mara, hyena territories are stable, not as large as Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, but still hold 12 hyenas per 100 square kms. Because prey is scattered the ranges are separated by wide buffer zones, and aggressive inter-clan meetings tend to occur when they are closer to each other because of the wildebeest migration.
Hyena is more often heard than seen, its loud long distance call carries for up to 5km and can be found throughout the Maasai Mara, and are especially active in the early hours of the morning at the time of the migration. Dens are often found around Rhino Ridge, Lookout Hill, Sand River and the conservation areas.
Longevity about 25yrs.
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