THEIR VOICE IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE
“When a lion wants to go somewhere, he doesn’t worry about how many hyenas are in the way.”
The hyenas. Lucrative, dangerous and with hidden intentions, almost like humans, or at least, they are so presented in our world full of judging with lack of understanding. Even since I was a child, I didn’t like hyenas. For me, they have always been more humans than animals. In my innocent child eyes, hyenas represented all bad from human race and nothing good from animals. Whoever can forget the settings from The Lion King, where hyenas are attacking the powerful lions and plotting the conspiracy. Too many negative tales about them and very few attempts to show their side of the world, their voice in the noisy reality we live in.
What we do know about hyenas ? Are they cunning, tricky and ready to do all to get their job done? If we think so about hyenas, it means we are too much influenced by so many modern frames that we arent able to think for ourselves. Back in 2019, I saw them, for the first time, during my safari adventure in Kenya. Honestly, they were more beautiful as I ever imagined them. They walked so proud on the red, dirty savannah road, waiting for a sunset and new season of hunt. Only then, I learnt that hyenas aren’t stealer of food from lions but rather adept hunters. What does it actually mean ? We all think that those animals are scavengers, that are too lazy to hunt themselves but use a chance to steal the food from majestic lions. Statistics informs that hyenas kill 66-90% of what they eat and that they are, surprisingly, very skilled and fast hunters. They have a special method of hunt that usually bring the prey to the final exhaustion and surrender. The ordinary hyena can develop a speed of 37mph(60 kph) for several miles. They can kill Cape buffalo and their size is a size of large dog, so they shouldn’t be underrated.
I heard that some people think of hyenas like about the wild dogs but the fact is that they look like wild dogs but they do not belong to dog family at all. According to the experts in Zoology: “The four hyena species (spotted hyena, brown hyena, striped hyena and aardwolf) belong the family Hyaenidae, within the suborder Feliformia (which includes cats), itself within the order Carnivora. Dogs, foxes and wolves also belong to the order Carnivora, but are within the suborder Caniformia.” So, they are authentic in many fields but I find inspiration in how they are organising their social life and relations. The hyenas are among the best parents in animal world. The hyenas are definitely one of the best known mothers because they invest time, energy and resources to rise the cubs, that are precocial, born in advanced stage, with opened eyes, active muscles and wild survival instinct. This is created by nature because baby hyenas do not have an easy life and sometimes they do not survive birth or the first weeks. If they survive, they are shaped like a perfect model of survival savannah policy that may have lifespan even up to 20 years.
The hyenas are very intelligent mammals and they could challenge the chimps. Why we would think differently about them ? We are, unfortunately, opinionated by so many negative scenarios where hyenas are killing baby lions and terrorising other animals. I guess they do but not intentionally but, as always, like a way to go through the difficult surviving logic. The animal behavioural psychologist, Benson-Amram tested the intelligence of many animals and concluded that hyenas showed the best performance, trying to solve the metal puzzle box with food inside, also confirming how the social hierarcy and internal relations among hyenas are directing the hunt and common action against the enemy or target. As far as I know, the majority of people believe that hyenas are primitive, foolish and ignorant but we rather have to admit that we need to accept that we deal with one superior intelligence of its kind. The giggle and annoying vocalisations is actually the community language that should present the anxiety and concern. Then, there is a whoop. It is something similar to wold howl and it can travel up to 3 miles, as a code for one animal identity calling another one. Some scientist report about 11 different vocalisations while some others argue it is more than 28. Whatever it is, the hyenas can speak and can count. It must be something true about it because the hyenas know how to distinct the numbers of hyenas in another clan and to develop the strategy, based on the number of opponents.
Nevertheless, the most thrilling thing about those odd and misunderstood mammals is the female structure of the gang. Who is a ruler ? Alpha female that is organising the clans up to 130 individuals. Therefore, the hyenas are very sociable animals but still categorised in micro groups inside the big clans, with occasional meetings. The biologist define this as some kind of fusion-fission society, the small clans leaded by large alpha female, the leader. The matriarch is deep in the core since alpha females and their babies are on the top of the linear ranking, while non-natal males are mostly immigrants, joined on the road. Those who investigate their social life are quite impressed how hyenas are directing their relations and even make some kind of animal politic symbiosis, when there is a throne fight and inter-clans competition. The females are so specific because they are aggressive. The nature granted them with 3 times as much testosterone in their bodies so they can be leaders. Even baby girls cubs are ruling over the boys. Not only that, our female has a pseudo- penis, almost called like an elongated clitoris. It is interesting that at the hyenas are greeting each others, expressing friendship with erections on the both sides. Being a male and cruel matriarch hyenas world is a more like a punishment. They need to live in the shadow of the female, trying to find a way to please the ruler and to provide also the food and safety for the cubs. If it is not enough good, the male hyenas could be easily forced to live the clan or it could be killed. When it is a breeding season, the females are usually search for males from another clan, to avoid incest and mutual mating.
Their life is not so easy as we may imagine due to the lot of pictures of sneaky hyenas against amazing lions. Yes, it is a truth. I will always love more lions than hyenas but I am ready to give them a chance and to help reshape their portay in the animal empire. I witnessed their beauty in the African nights, when they gazed in colourful sky and they seemed braver and stronger as we ever knew. They stood alone in the field, watching and observing the world around. I guess all they wanted ever is to be left alone and understood, that they live the only way they know and they could.