Friday, December 12, 2014

Things Hyenas Survive

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 survived being kicked in the face.  Her jaw was very clearly broken, she couldn’t eat, and we watched her get skinnier and skinner for weeks.
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
More scars on Harpy's left side
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. 
Bruno's snare

Another close up
Some close-ups of Bruno's snare

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.


Unknown said...

Incredible! Hyenas are ridiculously tough animals and I have watched a video of 2 male lions have difficulty with killing a single hyena (Sadly, they eventually killed her) and I have also seen a video where it took 4 lionesses to kill just a single hyena, and it took a long time for the hyena to actually die. Hyenas are incredible and this is why I give them my full respect! I love hyenas! Great post! :)

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled upon this blog....WOW HYENAS ARE AWESOME!

Unknown said...

I have been catching up with this blog for months now. Its nerve wracking to finally post a comment. You contributers are like rock stars to me. Lol.

Anyway, ive watched many bbc and discovery channel hyena documentaries. Some of which involve past bloggers and projects! (Rockstars im telling you) i recall one film about a small clan in south africa ruled by a particularly intense queen, gork. A coupe occured and she was deposed... Only after nearly having her hi d left paw torn off. Alas weeks later shes still hobbling around albiet no longer queen.

Ive also seen high ranking females with entirely missing paws that clearly had months to heal over, males with their noses and jowls bitten off after a territorial battle with an enemy clan, ears missing. And one particularly hard to watch video of a male loosing a fore paw, and getting strangled by a male lion three times... In the end he still got up and limped away. I would assume a low ranking male without a forepaw and broken vertebra is doomed... But with hyenas you never know.

Im so glad to hear cyberman survived though. She is my new hero... (After you bloggers of course)

Anonymous said...

Made me think of something I heard in a lecture ages ago. It was on cancer and the lecturer suggested that a possible reason for human propensity to cancer could be a side effect of relatively fast physical healing. (More cell division more chances of mistakes I guess?) I know very little cellular biology so I don't know how likely it is or if hyenas even work in a comparable way.But I thought it was interesting-

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