AARDWOLF AND HYENAS – Hyaenidae

AARDWOLF AND HYENAS

AARDWOLF AND HYENAS FACTS

The spotted hyena (hi-EE-nah) is the largest of three species that include the striped and brown hyenas. Hyenas weigh about 57 to 190 pounds (26 to 86 kilograms). The aardwolf (ARDwolf), included in the Hyaenidae family, weighs about 20 to 30 pounds (9 to 14 kilograms). All hyaenids (members of the Hyaenidae family), except the spotted hyena, have long, shaggy coats. A mane of hair down the back can be erected to make the animals look larger. All have a bushy tail and a sloping back. Anal gland secretions are used for marking territories. Spotted hyena females have genitals resembling those of males.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Hyenas and aardwolves are found in the Middle East (including Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia), Pakistan, India, and in Africa south of the Sahara Desert (except the rainforests of The Democratic Republic of the Congo).

AARDWOLF AND HYENAS HABITAT

Hyenas and aardwolves occupy grasslands, bush country (wild, uncultivated land), and open woodlands. They dig burrows (holes) underground or live in burrows abandoned by other animals.

AARDWOLF AND HYENAS DIET

The striped and brown hyenas are mainly scavengers, feeding off the leftover kills of other animals. They also eat hares (relatives of rabbits), rodents, reptiles, vegetables, and fruits. Brown hyenas along the Namib Desert eat South African fur seal pups and other sea organisms. The spotted hyena mostly hunts its own prey, such as gazelles, antelopes, wildebeests, and zebras. Aard-wolves feed almost exclusively on termites.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Spotted and brown hyenas live in groups called clans, dominated by a female. Striped hyenas are solitary, but small family groups may share a den. Females of spotted and brown hyenas stay with the clan for life. Male spotted hyenas are driven from the clan upon puberty, while male brown hyenas may choose to stay with the clan or leave. Hyenas scent mark territories by depositing anal secretions on grass stalks. Aardwolves are solitary, although, like hyenas, they communicate through scent marking. Hyaenids are active at night or at dawn and dusk.

Spotted and striped hyenas breed year round, while brown hyenas are seasonal breeders. Litter size varies, with one to two cubs for the spotted hyena, up to four for the striped hyena, and as many as six for the brown hyena. Brown and striped hyenas wean their young at about one year, while the spotted hyena nurses for up to a year and a half. Aardwolves may be seasonal or nonseasonal breeders, giving birth to two to four cubs, who leave home by age one.

HYAENIDS AND PEOPLE

Some African cultures believe hyenas possess magical powers. Others consider hyenas as pests for preying on domestic livestock. The brown hyena is a popular exhibit animal in zoos. In Africa, garbage is left out for the spotted and striped hyenas to eat. Aardwolves are useful to humans for eating termites.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists the brown and striped hyenas as not currently threatened, but may become threatened because of, among other things, accidental killing from the poison-spraying of pests. The spotted hyena also may become threatened because of killing by humans and habitat loss or degradation as a result of land clearing for agriculture and livestock. The aardwolf is not a threatened species.