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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

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

Keep Reading

This Week At Angama #6 16 March 2018 This week a rare sighting of a leucistic ‘white’ hyena steals the show much to the surprise of the leopards of the Mara Triangle By Adam Bannister
This Week At Angama #50 18 January 2019 Good things come to wildlife photographers who wait – and if not, somehow nature still finds a way to deliver   By Adam Bannister
Return of the Wild Dog? 16 March 2021 With the mission to assist in the protection of wild dogs in the Maasai Mara, a two day ‘Mara Vaccination Campaign’ was organised by a group of conservationists, biologists and veterinarians and Adam had the privilege of witnessing this successful initiative By Adam Bannister
This Week At Angama #132 14 August 2020 The Mara is open as is Angama, and the Migration is in full swing. Herds of wildebeest numbering in the thousands have been pouring into the savannah, heeding a call as old as time itself By Mwikali Ndambo
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