Hyenas in NNP

By Will Knocker:


One of the most reviled of the African mammal species, but to my mind, one of the most interesting: the highly social, very intelligent, noisy, matriarchal Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta)…….


Now that the Park is so full of wildlife, the hyenas are doing well & they also have the southern suburbs next to the Park to forage in at night. They do very well in the Silole Sanctuary where I live (adjacent to Ongata Rongai) where they love to scoff an occasional dog if they can catch one!

Here they are investigating something they can smell: like all mammals & especially carnivores, smell is key to their view of the world…


Hyenas are dominated by the female of the species, who is pumped full of testostorone. Males (smaller & inferior to the dominant females) come way down the scale in Hyena society & are mere sex-slaves…


Tail up is a sign of aggression/excitement: they probably smelled lions, or  competing hyenas. At night, excited hyenas emit the most extraordinary noises, including the far-carrying whoop which is one of the most evocative sounds of the African bush….


For many years, misunderstood by people & poisoned, killed & persecuted, these amazing (& generally inoffensive: they are highly intelligent & steer clear of trouble) large carnivores are becoming much more numerous & visible in Nairobi National Park, a haven for this sp. as for so many others…..

Hyenas in Nairobi Park


Nairobi National Park is a haven for the Spotted Hyena -Crocuta crocuta-surely one of the most fascinating of the large Carnivora…..

Being noctournal animals, these creatures are shrouded in myth, much of it ignorant, such as the belief that hyenas are scavengers…….in fact they are  intelligent,very social,highly effective predators very often at the top of the food chain in the savannah ecosystem.

They are also quite at home in ‘human zones’ such as cities & in suburban situations. To give an example, Ethiopia is home to tens of thousands of these large predators & yet has no significant wildlife numbers. Reason:Ethiopia has the highest livestock population in Africa & as hyenas are tolerated by the people, they do very nicely thank you & do an excellent job keeping the streets clean.

In Nairobi, in contrast, owing to ignorance, they have been persecuted since the city of Nairobi was founded 100 years ago. A bounty was paid on dead hyenas up to the ’60’s & in the ’70’s large-scale poisoning of large predators was the norm.

Only recently have their numbers begun to go up & today we have a good population (numbers unknown) in Nairobi National Park.


Above & top, a ‘clan’ of hyenas at the Athi Dam -these animals are not easily seen in the daytime:they are more usually heard at night; their characteristic contact loud whooping call being a characteristic sound of the African wilderness…..


Hyenas enjoy a matriarchal society:females are larger than males & dominate in the social hierarchy…….


Here’s a soft focus pic of these cuddly predators, more usually pictured covered in gore at a kill…….

Let’s hope that hyenas have a rosey future in the unique Nairobi National Park, where the wilderness of the Athi Plains rubs shoulders with a metropolis of 5 million Homo sapiens.

Ideal habitat for these opportunistic & intelligent animals…….