For the next couple of blogs we will run a creature feature. This month’s featured animal is the Brown Hyena. In Afrikaans they are called the “Strandwolf” or “Beachwolf”. The name probably comes from their habit of patrolling the beaches of the Skeleton Coast of Namibia looking for lost Cape Fur seal pups.

Not a lot is known about these notoriously shy animals. Lately we have had a couple of really good sightings of these shy, nocturnal animals in the late afternoon and early mornings. The cool winter days probably have lot to do with them being out and about.

When you see the Brown Hyena for the first time, one is easily shocked at the sight of its shaggy unkempt hair and sloppy back. The spoor shows you an animal with large front paws and smaller back paws and an angled gait, almost Charlie Chapman-like. Brown Hyenas play a vital role in cleaning up carcasses. They have some of the strongest jaws in the animal kingdom. The bite pressure they can exert is about 450kg per centimetre. A human bite is about 55kg per centimetre.

Brown hyenas have an anal gland below the base of their tail, which produces a black and white paste. The gland has a groove, coated with a white secretion, which divides a pair of lobes which produce a black secretion. These secretions are deposited on grass stalks roughly every quarter mile of their feeding grounds, particularly around territorial borders.

They are predominately scavengers, but are known to eat plants and insects as well as rodents. Their powerful sense of smell allows them to pick up the smell of a carcass up to 2km away. They are also known to have an unquenchable taste for ostrich eggs. If they stumble on a nest, they will cache the eggs to devour at a later stage.

So next time you see a brown hyena, rather than making a remark about its looks, why not marvel in the presence of this amazingly interesting animal.

Marco Fitchet
Senior Ranger