The Spotted Hyena, also known as the Laughing Hyena due to their distinct vocalisation, is a large African carnivore, and the largest of the hyena species. Although once widespread, they now only occur on the African continent. Their appearance can vary from grey-brown to yellow-grey short fur with an irregular pattern of dark spots on the back and hindquarters, a short mane and a subtle band of stripes on the neck.
They are, on average 95-165.8cm long, with a height of 70-91.5cm. There is little difference between the sexes, though female Spotted Hyenas are heavier. However, there are some variations in size across regions, with Spotted Hyenas in Zambia weighing more than in other African countries.
Though famed as a scavenger, the Spotted Hyena is also a skilled hunter. Living in clans of up to 80 hyenas, their location and prey preference determines the size of the group, as hunted prey will require a larger clan than one with a preference for a more stationary prey species. All females in the clan are dominant, even over the highest-ranking males, in a hierarchy maintained by genetic nepotism based on offspring of the alpha female.
Image: Spotted Hyena. Credit: Stephanie Watson Photography CC Image 2.0
Clans of Spotted Hyena live in a wide range of habitats across much of Sub-Saharan Africa including savannah, grassland and forest habitats.
Threats and Conservation
Although the Spotted Hyena is currently categorised as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, the population are known to be decreasing outside protected areas. Their status is threatened by deforestation and hunting.
World Land Trust (WLT) have partnered with Nature Kenya to save 810 acres of Kenya’s coastal Dakatcha Woodland, which protects the home of many native African species, including the Spotted Hyena.
The species is also present in the Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve, managed by our South Africa partner Wild Tomorrow Fund (WTF). The reserve borders the MunYaWana Conservancy where WTF have assisted in a satellite collaring project to help monitor the Spotted Hyena population there.