Hello, if you're new to the blog I'm a graduate student studying hyena cognition. I'm currently in Mekelle, Ethiopia to study a population of urban hyenas. Previous blog post: http://msuhyenas.blogspot.com/2017/02/urban-hyenas-in-ethiopia.html
This is the first update on the urban hyenas of Mekelle. Robyn and I have been testing hyenas at two sites on the outskirts of Mekelle. One is near a private high school along a road that the hyenas commute along every evening on their way into the city. The other site is at a landfill where a different group of hyenas forage. So far we've documented over 50 unique individuals by the road. After a few nights at the landfill we dropped it as a study site because they hyenas are busy foraging on their own and weren't very interested in the MAB.
The urban hyenas are completely nocturnal and are also afraid of white light. Therefore, we've been using IR spot lights and IR sensitive camcorders to observe and record them. We have to keep extremely quiet while we're sitting in the car.
About half the time this is what we observe:
But eventually the MAB tends to get really busy and it gets hard to keep track of everyone. It seems like these hyenas are really gregarious compared to the Mara hyenas, there's very little aggression over the food in the MAB.
Things were pretty quiet at our Landfill sessions:
Some excited lope arrivers scare off Radio, a subadult who's fed from the MAB several times.
Koala is a really nervous subadult. Most of the subadults we've seen are fairly bold and many have eaten from inside the MAB but Koala just can't quite bring himself to contact it.
Grizzly is definitely the gnarliest hyena I have ever seen. She looks like a really tough gal who's been through some crazy stuff.
Males here are just like males in the Mara.. they'll aggress unprovoked on females when the opportunity arrises! This behavior is called baiting and male hyenas tend to do it more often when female hyenas are receptive which suggest some role in relation to mating. Here Copperhead bites Heron's leg while she's distracted investigating the box.
See this link for more on baiting: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ab.10065/abstract
Moose, an adult female, feeds from the MAB.
We nicknamed this guy Squitter-Face during this trial. Eventually I named him Wombat, but he was easy to spot by his almost non-stop shrill squittering. Squittering is vocalization usually emitted by cubs and subadults towards their mother to elicit her to feed them.
Thermal camera footage from the landfill. I use a thermal camera to observe hyenas who are not within 5m of the MAB. Once they enter 5m we give them a "trial" and start filming them with the IR spotlights and cameras.
Robyn and I have also noticed that these urban hyenas all seem to be quite rotund... apparently they're getting a lot to eat here.