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Spotted Hyena: Why is it Endangered?

Spotted Hyenas are hyenas native to Sub-Saharan Africa south of the Sahara. They are, like many other big predators, harassed by poachers and hunters. The IUCN classifies these species as vulnerable, but they are not currently in danger of extinction.

The spotted hyena is a social mammal that lives in clans known as prides that range from two to forty individuals. Spotted Hyenas are extremely social, living in groups called clans that can have as few as two or as many as forty animals.

Spotted Hyenas communicate with each other through things like walking around and playing. They also do these things called grooming and marking territory. These actions help them to show love to each other and strengthen their bonds as friends.

  • Status: Least Concern 
  • Known as: Spotted Hyena, Spotted Hyaena, Laughing Hyena.
  • Estimated numbers left in the wild: Between 27000 to 47000.


Spotted Hyena in forest

The spotted hyena is the largest of the three hyena species, with large, well-developed shoulders and powerful forequarters slope down to relatively undeveloped hindquarters.

In comparison to the striped hyena, the spotted hyena has a larger but narrower sagittal crest. And for its size, it has one of the most powerfully built skulls for a carnivore.

The spotted hyena is regarded as the second largest carnivore in Africa, preceded by the Lion. They have strong jaws and teeth, which are well designed for crushing large bones.

Their fur varies with age and, unlike the striped and brown hyena, is shorter and spotted rather than striped. The spotted hyena also lacks the well-defined mane of the striped and brown hyena.

The fur is generally pale greyish-brown or yellowish-brown with dark irregular spots on the flanks, legs, and hindquarter, which tend to fade with age.

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Hunting and clan structure

Hyenas clan feeding on wildebeest

Hyenas are accomplished hunters as well as scavengers. They are known to hunt various prey, including wildebeest and zebras, and often hunt in packs. They live together highly social clans that occupy a territory dominated by the larger and more aggressive alpha females.

The clan structure exhibits a strict hierarchy, with the highest-ranking males falling below the lowest ranking females.

This matriarchal society is maintained by the dominant female exerting authority over lower-ranking females with aggression. Females remain with the clan for life whilst the males leave the clan at approximately 2.5 years old to join a new clan.

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hyena cub barking to other cub

Spotted hyenas are highly intelligent and have an extensive vocal range. They communicate with other clan members with whoops, grunts, yells, growls, and giggles. The giggles closely resemble a manic laugh hence the name ‘laughing hyaena.’

Spotted hyenas have been described as ‘exceedingly cunning, deceptive and suspicious.’ They have been known to use warning calls to scare off other hyenas to feed in peace. 

As a result of these character traits, they are often misunderstood, and like other hyenas, they are considered pests and hunted.

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Close up of Spotted hyena

The spotted hyena is widely spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa and east through Arabia to India. They are most often found in grasslands, savannas, woodlands, and forests. Also in the largest populations in the Serengeti region, Tanzania, Kenya, and Kruger in South Africa.

Protected population groups in Southern Africa are generally considered to be stable. However, despite being protected, groups in the east and west Africa are declining from poisoning and snaring due to their proximity to and frequent contact with humans and their habitation.

About Spotted Hyenas

In terms of social intelligence, spotted hyenas are comparable to certain primates. They are mostly nocturnal and hunt at night, sleeping or lingering near their den during the day. The clan system is a matriarchal social order of linked individuals that are known as clans.

The clan is led by one alpha female. These animals scratch the earth and exude an oily substance from their anal glands to indicate their territory.

Spotted hyenas use their territory as a latrines, marking the boundary of their clan in a similar manner to how lions do.

Spotted hyenas have a big vocal range and communicate with brothers and sisters with whoops, yells, grunts, growls, and giggles. The giggling sounds like manic laughter, hence their other name.

Spotted Hyena behaviour

two spotted hyenas feeding

Spotted hyenas are always on the lookout for food. They’ve been seen scavenging and hunting at night, with one individual focusing on each activity. This species intellect and social structure is incredible, with females having a superior position than males.

Their ability to eat a wide range of foods is one of the reasons they can survive in places where other large native predators have vanished. Spotted hyenas are omnivores and will consume just about everything, including insects (termites) and rodents (mice), as well as fish, birds, eggs, reptiles, amphibians, other mammals (antelopes), man-made salt licks exposed to the sun , as well as tsama melons , which are considered to be poisonous.

Spotted hyenas have been also observed feeding on the corpses of elephants that have perished from natural causes. And if given the chance, they will not hesitate to attack human youngsters since they are easy prey. Spotted hyenas have also been observed eating slain hyenas killed by other predators such as lions and leopards if the opportunity arises. Overall, these ravenous hunters will eat voraciously, allowing their metabolism to function at its best.

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The IUCN classifies these species as vulnerable

The Spotted Hyena is not currently threatened, but the IUCN classifies them as vulnerable. Because to their range of diet, they can survive in areas where people hunt and poach them.

Spotted Hyenas are also threatened by habitat destruction caused by human competition for space and food. They are native to most of Sub-Saharan Africa south of the Sahara, but their numbers have decreased in certain areas owing to habitat loss and human interaction.

Spotted Hyenas are not in danger of going extinct, but if these factors remain to cause population drops, they may become endangered. They are now classed as vulnerable, however if their populations were to shrink, they might be classed as endangered.

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Close up of spotted Hyena

Decline in numbers due to habitat loss and persecution at the hands of humans. Farmers hunt them as a result of assumed or actual threats to livestock, including cattle and goats. Spotted hyenas have also been hunted for body parts to be used in traditional medicine.

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Conservation efforts

Even though the spotted hyena is only listed as least concern on the World Conservation Union (IUCN), Red List conservation remains important as natural habitat and populations decline.

An IUCN report published in 1998 set out a Hyena Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, which outlines measures required to conserve the spotted hyena.

The report details campaigns to improve livestock protection as opposed to the killing of predators. It improved the perception and reputation of hyenas, maintained protected areas, and promoted tourist activities.

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Botswana Predator Conservation Trust

Botswana Predator Conservation Trust Logo

Botswana Predator Conservation Trust has designed a program to encourage farmers to implement livestock protection techniques to limit the conflict with spotted hyenas.


Spotted Hyenas are hyena relatives that can be found in parts of Africa south of the Sahara. They have a varied diet, which enables them to thrive in areas where other major indigenous predators have vanished.

This species is threatened by poachers and hunters because it is frequently misjudged for its personality qualities (cunning, sly, wary) but, like many other species imperiled by human activity, Spotted Hyaenas conservation efforts are still critical to safeguard their wild habitat and population numbers.

In 1998, an IUCN published a Hyena Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, which outlined conservation efforts to protect the spotted hyena. These species make a wide range of sounds, scents, and chemical signals for communication.

Their loud, ferocious howl is thought to be a rallying call that aids in the group’s social order. They can also reach speeds of up to 56 kilometers per hour (35 miles per hour).


What is Spotted Hyena?

Spotted Hyenas are hyena relatives and live in parts of Africa south of the Sahara. Spotted Hyenas have a varied diet, which enables them to thrive in areas where other major indigenous predators have vanished. Spotted Hyaenas conservation efforts remain critical to safeguard their wild habitat and population numbers due to human-related threats such as poaching and hunting for body parts used in traditional medicine (now illegal). Spotted Hyena is on now the IUCN “Least Concern” list.

What is Spotted Hyena’s habitat and diet?

Spotted Hyenas can be found in a wide range of environments, from grasslands to desert regions. Because These species are adaptable and thrive in most types of open terrain, including steppes, semi-deserts, deserts and mountains as long as there is sufficient food available, they’ve thrived throughout Africa even while other predators have perished.

Spotted Hyenas are not endangered and their numbers are stable in most parts of their range. Its population is not declining at this time. These merciless hunters would eat of its own kind flesh but its diet mostly consists of birds and small mammals such as hares and meerkats.

Spotted Hyenas also enjoy reptiles, insects and amphibians. These species are by nature opportunistic feeders, meaning they target the most easily obtainable food available.

Would Spotted Hyena make a good pet?

It is unlikely Spotted Hyena would make a good pet for someone. They are not endangered and their numbers are stable in most parts of their range. They are also one of the more common species that exist.

Spotted Hyena may be difficult to keep as pets because they are known to be very intelligent, cunning, and high strung. This species’ natural diet consist primarily of meat, meaning there is no supply of food remotely close to what Spotted Hyena would enjoy as its natural diet which means it may go hungry unless you provide it with animals or meat every day.

There is also a chance you would get bitten if they do not get to know you well. They basically perceive anything as a potential prey or threat and it would take forever to get them to know that you are neither.

Is Spotted Hyena endangered?

The Spotted Hyena is not endangered, but their habitat is under threat. Members of the hyena family who dwell throughout much of Africa south of the Sahara are known as spotted Hyenas. These species are not endangered, and their numbers remain constant throughout most of their range, but they’re vulnerable to habitat loss and human competition for space and food.

Hyenas are threatened by human persecution and hunting, in addition to other large predators. Because they are known to be clever, tricky, and high-strung, keeping them as pets may be difficult. The natural food of this species is meat, so there is no supply or meal that would appeal to it as much as its natural diet.

The IUCN classifies the Spotted Hyena as a vulnerable species. The range of the this species in Southern Africa has decreased dramatically in the last 100 years.

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