The spotted hyena is a well-known character on the African savannah, known for its habit to find and scavenge carcasses left from other animals but it is also known as a skilled hunter.
Males weigh up to approximately 65 kilos, however females are larger, weighing up to 85 kilos. In zoos they sometimes become even larger than that.
The species is an opportunist that can be found in many different types of habitats. Most are however found in savannah-like environments.
The spotted hyena is probably among the most famous scavengers in the world. In spite of having a reputation as thieves, they are not bad hunters and most of their preferred prey species are middle-sized antelopes that they hunt and kill on their own.
In nature about 25 – 30 years, but in zoos even older.
Although the species is not threatened in the whole of Africa, many populations outside the larger national parks and reserves are disappearing. Due to this, there is a need to monitor the conservation status of this species. The reason for the current population decline is the expansion of human settlements and because of this a decrease in prey. If hyenas attack livestock, traps and poisoned meat are commonly used to hunt them, which quickly kills the whole clan.
Younger males that have to leave their birth group live a nomadic life until they are picked up in a new unrelated group. The group, called a “clan”, has a hierarchical dominance structure where females are more dominant than males. The lowest ranking female is still higher ranked than the highest ranked male. The most dominant male gets to mate most. The gestation period is about 3 months after which normally 1– 2 pups are born. Within a clan all females sometimes share the same big den.
Pups of spotted hyenas are born with open eyes and well developed teeth and the struggle between siblings in the clan hierarchy starts almost immediately after birth.
The spotted hyena has three close relatives today – brown and striped hyenas, and also the more distant relative, the aardwolf. Prehistorically, there have existed hyena species as large as a modern lion.