Striped Hyena Conservation & Management
Large parts of my past and current research are designed to elucidate the behavior of the free living striped hyena, one of the few remaining large carnivores whose biology remains poorly understood. Although far more conservation effort and attention has been directed toward the social carnivores, 80-90% of all carnivore species are behaviorally solitary. Included among these solitary species, the striped hyena is now endangered in many portions of their range. Minimum world-wide population estimates fall below that of the highly endangered cheetah and the highest reported local densities (~0.03 per km2) are below those of other carnivores considered highly endangered (e.g. African wild dogs). A total African population estimate of 2,450 to 7,850 individuals represents roughly half of the total worldwide estimated population. Only six countries have populations estimated above 100 individuals, and, of those, only Egypt and Kenya have estimated populations over 1,000 (accounting for 51% of the maximum African population estimate and 82% of the minimum estimate!). However, no conservation efforts have targeted striped hyenas because we have no information regarding the behavior of the species, nor do we know what management strategies might affect striped hyena populations, or in what ways. This lack of information about the behavior of striped hyena makes effective management of the species virtually impossible.
Our work on both Loisaba and Lake Magadi provides essential descriptions of striped hyena ecology. That, in turn, will provide valuable insights into how best to manage for striped hyena conservation and, as such, represents a vital step for developing management measures that take their behavioral ecology into consideration. The results of our work will make it possible for wildlife managers in many African, Middle Eastern, and Central and South Asian nations to consider the ecological needs of the species in management planning.
We recognize that effective conservation of these and other hyenas demands that their public image be improved, and this can only occur by increasing our knowledge base about these animals.