Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spiffy Spotted Hyenas

There are four kinds of hyenas, and these four kinds are the Striped Hyena, Brown Hyena, Spotted Hyena, and Aardwolf.  I cannot tell you about all these hyenas in one short blog entry, so I am just going to talk about spotted hyenas, which are sometimes called "laughing hyenas."  And the reason they are called this is because they can make a noise that sounds like giggling or laughing, especially when they are excited.

Spotted hyenas live in almost every part of sub-saharan Africa except the Congo River Basin.  So some of my distant basenji cousins have probably seen or heard hyenas sometimes.  A long time ago, in prehistoric days, spotted hyenas were in Europe and Asia, too, but now they are just in Africa.  They are not an endangered species, but it's still important for people to do some conservation stuff to protect them.

Some people think that hyenas just go around looking for dead stuff to eat, but this is not true.  Spotted hyenas are good hunters, and they are very smart, too.  They can work together in packs to catch animals that they like to eat.  Their favorite animals to eat are wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles.  But sometimes they also eat fish, tortoises, black rhinos, hippo calves, young elephants, and pythons.  Usually they avoid messing with plains zebras, giraffes, and buffalos.

When a whole bunch of hyenas are all eating the same animal, they have to compete with each other to get the best and yummiest parts.  But instead of snarking at each other, like lions do, they just eat faster.  A group of hyenas can finish off a meal in no time at all, and then they carry off the bones and stuff that are left over to eat in privacy someplace.

And speaking of lions, lots of times spotted hyenas have to compete with lions for food.  Some lions are very rude and just march right in and take over a kill that the hyenas made.  Then the hyenas have to work even harder killing more animals in order to get enough food to eat.  But sometimes the hyenas get so annoyed about this lion behavior that they gang up on any lions that come into their territory.

Mom and I saw a TV show the other night where a hyena was getting chased by lions, and they caught her, and we thought she would be killed, but somehow she managed to get away from them.  And then a whole pack of hyenas attacked two lions and killed them, which totally amazed Mom and me because we didn't know that hyenas could do that.  So that is actually the main reason I decided to write about hyenas.

Anyway, when spotted hyenas have babies, they usually just have two.  It's hard for the mama hyenas because they have a very narrow opening for the cubs to come out of, so maybe 10% of the moms die while giving birth.  The cubs are born with their eyes already open and also they already have teeth!  And they start attacking their littermates right away, so a lot of times the weaker cub is killed by the stronger one.  This seems pretty mean to me, so I'm glad I was born as a puppy and not as a hyena cub!

Spotted hyenas have really rich milk with a whole bunch of protein and fat in it.  This milk is so yummy and good for the cubs that the mama hyena can leave her babies for almost a week without feeding them.

And here's another surprising thing about spotted hyenas:  they are smarter than the other kinds of hyenas, and in some ways they are even smarter than chimpanzees.  Some scientists at Duke University did tests with hyenas and chimpanzees where the animals had to work with other animals of their same species to solve a problem, and the hyenas did way better than the chimps on these tests.

Hyenas and humans have hung around some the same places since way back in time, but they never became best friends, like dogs and humans did.  There is some evidence that hyenas used to steal meat from Neanderthals, which is what some of the old-time humans were called.  And also the humans and hyenas used the same caves, but not both at the same time.

Mostly, hyenas are scared of people and will run away from them.  Sometimes hyenas kill people, but this doesn't happen very often.  The people that hyenas kill are mostly women, children, or sick people.  And the time of year when hyenas are most likely to attack people is in September, when people sleep outside at night because the weather is so hot.  But like I said, it doesn't happen very often.

Anyway, that's all I'm going to tell you about hyenas right now.  I couldn't find any information on whether hyenas eat basenjis or not, but I'm guessing that they do.  Which is why the basenjis would be smart to hang out with people in the villages so that the people can help scare the hyenas away.

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