Hyenas of Africa

Dear all, helo!
I’d like meeting with a hyena . Feeding hyenas in Harar. Is it nice way?

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Here is a link to a YouTube video about feeding hyenas. I don’t know…I would want an experienced person there to guide me, for safety. They are wild carnivores, and their jaws are made for crushing bones. But that’s true of most big carnivores.


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I read a bit about this cultural phenomenon in Ethiopia a while back and found it absolutely fascinating (previously saw some footage of it on youtube).

I cant recall whether it was Ethiopia or another East African country but I remember reading in an anthropology paper that within some Muslim cultures there is the belief that hyenas are actually good luck and benevolent because they are conceived to be a form of supernatural pest control as it is believed that these animals consume evil spirits or Jinn that haunt streets after dark in search of humans souls to possess.

I find that way of perceiving the hyena as an agent of good totally fascinating from an ethno-zoological perspective because these are animals which really have a bad (and undeserved) reputation both in the countries where they occur in the wild and in a more international popular culture sense.

Anyway, as usual I digress…

Generally there can be real issues with human-wildlife conflict due to habituating wildlife to humans through provisioning of food and particularly as @JohnnyOnLocation says above with regards to the large wild carnivores so it is something that is typically strongly discouraged.

Spotted hyenas do occasionally attack and kill humans across Sub-Saharan Africa but the most common outcome is non-fatal attacks which result in injuries and very sadly some of these have led to the unfortunate victim (and these are often children…) being severely disfigured or disabled for life.

I think that the fact that the feeding of hyenas is an important cultural ritual in this city and has religious significance and that tourism to see it has been a byproduct of this tradition rather than the incentive for this practice makes things far more challenging in terms of knowing whether to condone or to discourage it.

I tend to think that it is OK as long as a person is sensible and doesn’t do anything to put the animal on edge which might make it attack and follows the instruction of the elders who feed these hyenas ( even if their knowledge of these animals is not “scientific” they are ultimately the ones who have established these intimate bonds with these apex predators and probably know through a wealth of experience and have learned through oral cultural tradition to gauge the temperament and mood of hyena during interaction better than many zoologists could).

Sadly considering the ongoing civil war in Ethiopia it will probably be a long time before tourists will get to visit this amazing country and to see this or any other of its fascinating cultural riches…