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What are the secrets of spotted hyenas? Candid Animal Cam meets the mammal with bone-breaking jaws

  • Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting the largest species of hyena in the world: the spotted hyena.

Spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) are endemic to Africa, and they occur south of the Sahara in all woodland-savannah habitats. Hyenas are opportunistic carnivores that forage during the day but when living near humans they prefer doing it at night. They form clans of 10 to 80 individuals. The largest recorded clan had 126! In groups, they are able to overpower a wildebeest and even kill an African buffalo. A spotted hyena’s jaw is the strongest of any mammal. They can exert 40 % more bite force than a leopard and can crack open the femur of a giraffe. Spotted hyenas have undergone significant declines everywhere outside protected areas mainly due to human hunting and retaliation for livestock predation. Watch the video to learn more about this species!

Special thanks to Dr. Meredith Palmer and Akiba/Jacinta of FreakLabs for sharing their camera trap footage with us. Dr. Palmer is a researcher at Princeton University and uses camera traps to study how prey animals (like wildebeest, zebra, and impala) respond to complex carnivore guilds and the reintroduction of locally-extinct predators (like lions, cheetah, hyena, leopards, and African wild dogs). The camera traps are triggered to play predator sounds when triggered, and then video record animal responses. They were deployed in the Serengeti ecosystem in 2019.

Banner image: Spotted hyena with cub. Photo by Romi Castagnino


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Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino