The Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) ranges through wide parts of sub-Saharan Africa and is the largest of all hyena species. The animals live in large groups with up to 80 individuals, but social interactions within the gang can still be rough: females only care for their own cubs, access to food is strongly competetive, and males display no paternal care. Their society is matriarchal with females being larger and dominating males. The Spotted Hyena is Africa’s most common large carnivore with its success mainly due to its opportunistic feeding habits. In general, the animals hunt living prey, but they also scavenge, being able to crack strong bones with their powerful jaws and digesting even thick skins. The species is also called the Laughing Hyena due to its many and variable calls. Their giggles are part of the natural soundtrack of African nights – at least in the wild parts of the continent.
I have photographed these interesting and intimidating animals during a visit to the Etosha National Park in northern Namibia in February 2007. I would love to go back there soon!