In the natural world, it is survival of the fittest. We see a ton of crazy animal injuries out here: various antelope missing horns; lots of limps; zebras with misaligned stripes, clearly due to barely slipping out of the grasp of a lion’s claws; and lions gored by warthogs. None of these come close to comparing to the crazy injuries that we have witnessed hyenas surviving.
Hyenas are tough, REALLY tough. They have an amazingly impressive immune system and we don’t even yet fully understand how it works as well as it does. Most hyenas carry the antibodies for rabies. This means that they contracted and fought of the disease, but we don’t ever see them come down with symptoms and start acting rabid. Canine distemper, a particularly nasty virus, does not appear to bother hyenas much. While epidemics are decimating lions and wild dogs, we only have a few hyenas go missing. We also know that they can eat anthrax. Anthrax!
Like I said, hyenas are REALLY tough. This blog is devoted to all the things that we have seen hyenas survive.
Kay loves to tell us the story of her favorite hyena, Cochise, and how she survived being bitten on the nose by a cobra. As Cochise stumbled out of sight into the bushes, Kay thought she would never see her again. Less than a week later, Cochise was spotted looking perfectly healthy and completely recovered.
We all know about Navajo. She has survived 22 years of tough living. I mean, just look at her:
|Navajo, surviving life, one day at a time|
|Moon Pie: Her face so swollen her right eye is shut|
We thought for sure she wouldn’t make it, but the swelling went down and we knew she was out of the woods when we saw her stripping meat off of a fresh carcass that another hyena had taken down. The offset of her jaw, once fully healed, is a testament to how bad the injury was and how tough she was for pulling through.
|Moon Pie, looking skinny but all healed up|
We have had a couple cubs survive orphaning. Our most recent tough little survivor, Cyberman, is still going strong, despite losing her mom to one of the worst hyena poisonings in project history when she was only seven months old (hyenas usually rely on mom’s milk until they are at least twelve months old).
Hyenas also survive a crazy number of intense physical injuries.
|Peebles with a nasty-looking gash on her head|
Harpy, in addition to having a huge goiter-like growth on her neck, has some awfully painful looking scars.
|Harpy's goiter and some impressive scars|
Snares are a common, nasty injury for hyenas, especially in places where poaching is prevalent. Hyenas often get caught in snares meant for other animals. They usually manage to escape the snare’s tether, but then they are stuck with an ever-tightening loop around their neck. Eventually, the snare cuts into their neck, creating an open festering wound that can cut off the wind pipe or make it impossible to swallow chunks of meat.
An old Talek West male, Oakland, survived one such snare. The snared worked its way into his skin and was imbedded there. We darted him, in an attempt to remove the snare, but it the wound had healed over and it was too deep to safely remove. The snare has remained there ever since. When Oakland whoops, you can hear the snare resting on and interfering with his vocal cords.
In contrast with Oakland, Bruno’s snare was NOT healing over. When we darted him, it was an open, festering wound that circled his neck.
|Another close up|
|Removing the snare|
Luckily, (and as a testament to how tough hyenas are) Bruno is looking great these days. You can still see the hole in his windpipe, but otherwise he seems right as rain.
In case you didn't believe me before, I bet you do now. Hyenas lead a rough life and they have to be REALLY tough to survive it. It's no wonder they occur in so many habitats, adjust reasonably well to human presence, and are not declining like many other large African carnivores.