Spotted Hyena in Africa
The spotted hyena has long been reviled in popular culture as ‘ugly’ and ‘cowardly’. In fact, this powerful, versatile and intelligent carnivore is one of Africa’s most fascinating, and warrants special attention on any safari.
Quick facts about Spotted Hyena
|Scientific name:||Crocuta crocuta||Habitat:||Semi-desert, forest, savannah|
|IUCN status:||Least Concern||Adult weight:||40–80kg|
The spotted hyena is the largest and most widespread of four hyena species and distinguished by its round ears and spotted coat – bolder in younger individuals. Both a tireless predator, able to run down zebra, and a resourceful scavenger, using powerful jaws to consume every scrap of a carcass, it is Africa’s most efficient large carnivore.
Spotted hyena clans may number over 50 but individuals disperse widely while foraging. Alpha females, larger than males, preside over matriarchal social structures as complex as those of some primates. Cubs are born in burrows.
A highly vocal animal, the spotted hyena’s far-carrying whoop is the very essence of a night in the African bush.
More bite power then leopard
distance carried by contact calls
meat consumed at a sitting
Cubs killed by siblings during first month
Africa's top camps for seeing spotted hyenas
Based on 1857 reports by our travellers since Mar 2018, the camps below have the best chances of sighting spotted hyenas. Simply follow the key below.
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Where to see spotted hyenas in Africa
Spotted hyenas are fairly easily observed in most major parks, especially where lions are present. Much of their activity occurs after dark, when you’re bound to hear them even if you don’t see them.
Top tips for viewing spotted hyena
Spotted hyenas range widely across sub-Saharan Africa but are best seen in reserves where other predators provide plentiful large carcasses. Prime locations include the Serengeti/Maasai Mara (Kenya/Tanzania), Chobe/Okavango (Botswana), Zambezi and Luangwa Valleys (Zimbabwe/Zambia), and Greater Kruger (South Africa). With no lions around, for example on Malawi’s Nyika Plateau, spotted hyenas become the dominant predator.
At night, their calls often betray a lion or leopard kill. By day, you may find cubs lying out at the den and can observe the complex communications between clan members. On hot days hyenas sometimes cool off in mud wallows. Habituated hyenas may become bold, raiding camps at night and stealing boots or similar. On foot, look out for hyenas’ distinctive tracks and their bone-whitened droppings, known as ‘bush meringues’.
Holiday ideas to see spotted hyenas
Based on our travellers experiences, these are the holidays which will give you the best chances of good spotted hyena sightings
Our top destinations for spotted hyenas
Click below for detailed information about spotted hyenas in these countries, including our latest sightings data from the camps and lodges there.