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This hyena pup’s adorable ‘smile’ is melting hearts in Kruger [photo]

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Oct 26, 2021

Hyenas often have a bad reputation, but no one can deny how adorable their smiles are!

Hyenas in the Kruger National park

These are the words of Gordon, Bonnie and Mavis who spotted a hyena on the H14 in the Kruger National Park.

According to the wildlife app Latest Sightings the “cute” hyena was spotted with three others last week. They were caught licking the water droplets off the group’s vehicle when the photo was taken:

“We had a similar experience, they are lovely animals indeed,” said Gero Marco on Facebook. “Look at that face. Big kiss baby,” said Corne Fouche.

Image: LatestSightings/Facebook

A bad reputation

Hyenas have had a bad reputation indeed.

“Sly and sleazy, malicious and menacing, ugly and evil – these are only some of the vilest of titles the human world has granted to the hyenas,” writes World Atlas.

However, for those who have strived to know these animals up close and personal, they represent some of the finest of qualities in the animal kingdom.

“Across cultures and continents, folklores have also often depicted hyenas as brutish creatures to be shunned at all costs. Some tales describe how dark witches use hyenas as their mounts while others narrate how hyenas kidnap human children to feast on them,” the publication writes.

Today, of the four hyena species, the striped hyena and the brown hyena are labelled as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List while the others are “Least Concern” species.

It is reported that there is a lack of scientific research studies and reliable census data on these animals which “makes the successful conservation of hyenas a near to impossible task”. Take, for example, the case of the striped hyena in India.

Hyenas: A truly underrated species

“The striped hyena is an underrated species that deserves more conservation attention. They are protected under Schedule III of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 but not much research has been carried out about this elusive species. Issues around keystone species such as the tiger or the elephant tend to get a bigger conservation platform,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, the co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS.

According to him, man-animal conflict, poisoning, habitat destruction, hunting, and poaching for body parts are the biggest threats to the striped hyena populations in India. The skins of this species are illegally traded and body parts are used in traditional medicine.

Nigeria’s ‘Hyena Men’

Striped hyenas living in Nigeria also have their share of misfortunes. Here, a group of men from the rural farmlands of northern Nigeria called the “Hyena Men” catch hyena pups, baboons and snakes in the wild in order to perform in a circus-like show.

A huge spectacle

The African Insider reports that the Hyena Men earned worldwide recognition when the South African photographer Pieter Hugo published a compilation of photos, titled The Hyena & Other Men (2007). 

Hugo wrote that seeing them perform is unforgettable. It’s a huge spectacle. They beat drums to draw in the crowds, then take the muzzles off the hyenas.

Next, they put their arms and even their heads between the animals’ jaws. The aim is to convince the audience they have special powers, and that the audience can acquire them too – if they buy their potions.”

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