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A Night Out with the Hyenas

Adam discovers that spotted hyenas are not greedy, stupid, scavenging scoundrels after all
The bold stare of a hyena

Recently, I jumped at the opportunity to spend 24 hours with the Michigan State University Hyena Project. Having run for over 30 years this is one of the longest standing large predator studies that has been undertaken in Africa. During this time they have uncovered much about the spotted hyena, and laid to rest many of the myths that plague the image of this much misunderstood and often maligned animal.

It takes complete dedication to work in this small team. Jess and Kate work tirelessly in the field meticulously observing three clans in the Mara Triangle. In addition to documenting every bit of behavior they see, they collect saliva and faeces samples for DNA analyses. They record vocalizations and even conduct tests to see how hyenas think and develop. Each hyena is identified, named and catalogued in order to record the relationships.

A hyena looking out from it's den

During the course of the study this team has uncovered many of the facts that guides throughout Kenya, and in fact across Africa, use when educating and entertaining guests and visitors to our wilderness areas.

I have kept this post short as I feel this story is best told in the words of Kate and Jess. Please watch this short clip I filmed during my time with them as it best illustrates what incredible work they do and how special these predators are.

We really are very lucky to have a team of such dedicated scientists on our doorstep and I salute each one who has worked on this project over the years. If you are interested in hyenas and in the project you can find out more at www.msuhyenas.blogspot.com

Hyena behind the grass

Filed under: The Mara

Tagged with:

Conservation , Hyena , Hyena Project , Maasai Mara , Wildlife

About: Adam Bannister

A South African-trained biologist, safari guide, author, filmmaker and photographer, Adam is, above all else, a gifted storyteller. After spending the past 10 years working in some of the world’s most beautiful wild places – the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, Rajasthan in India, Brazil’s Pantanal, and the rainforests of Manu National Park in Peru – he is delighted to share his stories of one of the loveliest game reserves of them all, the Maasai Mara.

Browse all articles by Adam Bannister Meet the angama team

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Join the Conversation (6 comments)

Comments (6):

Susan russick

8 December 2019

Spending a week in the Mara Triangle Was an extraordinary experience. I am fascinated by spotted hyenas and in awe of Dr. Kay Holecamp’s magnificent effort to educate the public about them while giving women a safe environment in which to grow into serious scientists.

Charles Steinfield

17 January 2019

We spent a week at the camp going on observations with Kate, Jess, and Erin. It was an amazing experience and we have newfound appreciation for the spotted hyena. Loved your photos and video and thanks for bringing attention to their work!

Will Steinfield

16 January 2019

Greatly enjoyed reading about my sisters work in this and terrific video spot!

    Nicky Fitzgerald

    17 January 2019

    Thanks Will - we are so proud of the work she does

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