Mammalian Biology

, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 193–197 | Cite as

Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) coexisting at high density with people in Wukro district, northern Ethiopia

  • Gidey YirgaEmail author
  • Wondimu Ersino
  • Hans H. De Iongh
  • Herwig Leirs
  • Kindeya Gebrehiwot
  • Jozef Deckers
  • Hans Bauer
Original Investigation


We surveyed density and abundance of spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) in the highly degraded and prey depleted Wukro district, northern Ethiopia, with a human population density of 98 persons per square kilometer. A total of 117 spotted hyenas responded to callups, giving a hyena density of 52 hyenas per 100 km2 or a total population of 535 hyenas in the district. We quantified the economic impact of spotted hyena predation on livestock using semi structured interviews with randomly selected households. Respondents indicated a total loss of 203 domestic animals to hyena depredation over the past five years. Average annual depredation per household was 0.13 livestock worth US$ 6.1. The diet of spotted hyenas was assessed in three sub-districts by scat analysis and showed 99% prey items of domestic origin, only three of 211 scat contained hair of Ethiopian hare (Lepus fagani) and porcupine (Hystrix cristata). We conclude that hyenas in northern Ethiopia live at high density and eat almost exclusively anthropogenic food and are not dependent on conservation areas.


Population density Depredation Spotted hyena Diet 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abay, G.Y., Bauer, H., Gebrihiwot, K., Deckers, J., 2011. Peri-urban spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) in northern Ethiopia: diet, economic impact, and abundance. Eur. J. Wildl. Res. 57, 759–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bailey, T.N., 1993. The African Leopard: Ecology and Behavior of a Solitary Felid. Columbia University Press, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bauer, H., 2007. Status of large carnivores in Bouba Ndjida National Park, Cameroon. Afr. J. Ecol. 45, 448–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beckmann, J.P., Berger, J., 2003. Rapid ecological and behavioural changes in carnivores: the responses of black bears (Ursus americanus) to altered food. J. Zool. (Lond.) 261, 207–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bertram, B.C.B., 1975. Social factors influencing reproduction in wild lions. J. Zool. (Lond.) 177, 463–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burnham, K.P., Anderson, D., Laake, J.L., 1980. Estimation of density from line transect sampling of biological populations. Wildl. Monogr. 72, 1–202.Google Scholar
  7. Caughley, G., 1974. Bias in aerial survey. J. Wildl. Manage. 38, 921–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Conover, M.R., 2002. Resolving Human–Wildlife Conflicts: The Science of Wildlife Damage Management. Lewis Publishers, CRC Press LLC, Boca Raton, FL.Google Scholar
  9. Croes, B.M., Funston, P.J., Rasmussen, G., Buij, R., Saleh, A., Tumenta, P.N., De Iongh, H.H., 2011. The impact of trophy hunting on lions (Panthera leo) and other large carnivores in the Bénoué Complex, northern Cameroon. Biol. Conserv. 144, 3064–3072.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Iongh, H.H., Bauer, H., Hamling, P., 2004. Nine years on research on lions (Panthera leo) in the Waza National Park (Cameroon); a review. Game Wildl. Sci. 21, 433–444.Google Scholar
  11. Eltringham, S.K., 1980. A quantitative assessment of range usage by large African mammals with particular reference to the effects of elephants on trees. Afr. J. Ecol. 18, 53–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ferreira, S.M., Funston, P.J., 2010. Estimating lion population variables: prey and disease effects in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Wildl. Res. 37, 194–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Frank, L.G., Holekamp, K.E., Smale, L., 1995. Dominance, demography and reproductive success of female spotted hyenas. In: Sinclair, A.R.E., Arcese, P. (Eds.), Serengeti II: Dynamics, Management, and Conservation of an Ecosystem. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, USA, pp. 364–384.Google Scholar
  14. Frank, L.G., Woodroffe, R., Ogada, M.O., 2005. People and predators in Laikipia District, Kenya. In: Woodroffe, R., Thirgood, S., Rabinowitz, A. (Eds.), People and Wildlife: Conflict or Coexistence? Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 286–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fuller, T.K., Sievert, P.R., 2001. Carnivore demography and the consequences of changes in prey availability. In: Gittleman, J.L., Funk, S.M., Macdonald, D.W., Wayne, R.K. (Eds.), Carnivore Conservation. Cambridge University Press and the Zoological Society of London, Cambridge, pp. 163–178.Google Scholar
  16. Gade, D.W., 2006. Hyenas and humans in the Horn of Africa. Geogr. Rev. 96, 609–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Graf, J., Somers, M.J., Szykman, M., Slotow, R., 2008. Heterogeneity in the density and distribution of spotted hyaenas in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa. Acta Theriol. 54, 333–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hemson, G., 2003. The Ecology and Conservation of Lions: Human–Wildlife Conflict in Semi-arid Botswana. D. Phil Thesis, University of Oxford, Oxford.Google Scholar
  19. Hetherington, D.A., Gorman, M.L., 2007. Using prey densities to estimate the potential size of reintroduced populations of Eurasian lynx. Biol. Conserv. 137, 37–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hofer, H., East, M.L., 1995. Population dynamics, population size and the commuting system of Serengeti spotted hyaenas. In: Sinclair, A.R.E., Arcese, P. (Eds.), Serengeti II: Dynamics, Conservation, and Management of an Ecosystem. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 332–363.Google Scholar
  21. Hofer, H., Mills, M.G.L., 1998. Population size, threats and conservation status of hyaenas. In: Mills, M.G.L., Hofer, H. (compilers) (Eds.), Hyaenas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Hyaena Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland, pp. 64–79.Google Scholar
  22. Holekamp, K.E., Szykman, M., Boydston, E.E., Smale, L., 1999. Association of seasonal reproductive patterns with changing food availability in an equatorial carnivore, the spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta). J. Reprod. Fertil. 116, 87–93.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holmern, T., Nyahongo, J.W., Røskaft, E., 2007. Livestock loss caused by predators outside the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Biol. Conserv. 135, 518–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Karani, I.W., Dublin, H.T., Koehler, G.M., 1995. Livestock depredation by predators in pastoral areas adjacent to Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. In: Bisonette, J.A., Krausman, P.R. (Eds.), Integrating People and Wildlife for a Sustainable Future. Wildlife Society, Maryland, pp. 360–363.Google Scholar
  25. Karanth, K.U., Nichols, J.D., Kumar, N.S., Link, W.A., Hines, J.E., 2004. Tigers and their prey: predicting carnivore densities from prey abundance. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 101, 4854–4858.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kissui, B.M., 2008. Livestock predation by lions, leopard ds, spotted hyenas, and their vulnerability to retaliatory killing in the Maasai steppe, Tanzania. Anim. Conserv. 11, 422–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kolowski, J.M., Holekamp, K.E., 2006. Spatial, temporal, and physical characteristics of livestock depredations by large carnivores along a Kenyan reserve border. Biol. Conserv. 128, 529–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kruuk, H., 1966. Clan-system and feeding habits of spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta Erxleben). Nature 209, 1257–1258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Laurenson, M.K., 1995. Implications of high offspring mortality for cheetah population dynamics. In: Sinclair, A.R.E., Arcese, P. (Eds.), Serengeti II: Dynamics, Management and Conservation of an Ecosystem. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 385–399.Google Scholar
  30. Linnell, J.D.C., Swenson, J.E., Andersen, R., 2001. Predators and people: conservation of large carnivores is possible at high human densities if management policy is favourable. Anim. Conserv. 4, 345–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Litvaitis, J.A., 2000. Investigating food habits of terrestrial vertebrates. In: Boitani, L., Fuller, T.K. (Eds.), Research Techniques in Animal Ecology. Controversies and Consequences. Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 165–190.Google Scholar
  32. Loveridge, A.J., Searle, A.W., Murindagomo, F., Macdonald, D.W., 2007. The impact of sporthunting on the population dynamics of an African lion population in a protected area. Biol. Conserv. 134, 548–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mengistu, T., Teketay, D., Hulten, H., Yemshaw, Y., 2005. The role of enclosures in the recovery of woody vegetation in degraded dryland hillsides of central and northern Ethiopia. J. Arid Environ. 60, 259–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mills, G.G.L., 1990. Kalahari Hyenas: Comparative Behavioral Ecology of Two Species. Unwin Hyemn, London.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mills, G.G.L., Harvey, M., 2001. African Predators. Cape Town, Struik.Google Scholar
  36. Mills, M.G., Juritz, J.M., Zuccini, W., 2001. Estimating the size of spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) populations through playback recordings allowing for non-response. Anim. Conserv. 4, 335–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mills, M.G.L., 1992. A comparison of methods used to study food habits of large African carnivores. In: McCulloch, C., Barret, R.H. (Eds.), Wildlife 2001: Populations. Elsevier, London, pp. 1112–1123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mills, M.G.L., Hofer, H., 1998. Hyaenas. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Hyaena Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.(compilers).Google Scholar
  39. Mizutani, F., 1993. Home range of leopards and their impact on livestock on Kenyan ranches. In: Dunstone, N., Gorman, M.L. (Eds.), Mammals as Predators. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 425–439.Google Scholar
  40. Norton-Griffiths, M., 1978. Counting Animals, 2nd ed. African Wildlife Leadership Foundation, Nairobi, Kenya.Google Scholar
  41. Nyssen, J., Mitiku, H., Naudts, J., Munro, R.N., Poesen, J., Moeyersons, J., Frankl, A., Deckers, J., Pankhurst, R., 2009. Desertification? Northern Ethiopia re-photographed after 140 years. Sci. Total Environ. 407, 2749–2755.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. O’Connell-Rodwell, C.E., Rodwell, T., Rice, M., Hart, L.A., 2000. Living with the modern conservation paradigm: can agricultural communities co-exist with elephants? A five year case study in East Caprivi, Namibia. Biol. Conserv. 93, 381–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ogutu, J.O., Dublin, H.T., 1998. The response of lions and spotted hyenas to sound playbacks as a technique for estimating population size. Afr. J. Ecol. 36, 83–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Packer, C., Hilborn, R., Mosser, A., Kissui, B., Borner, M., Hopcraft, G., Wilmshurst, J., Mduma, S., Sinciar, A.R.E., 2005. Ecological change, group territoriality, and population dynamics in Serengeti lions. Science 307, 390–392.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Polisar, J., Maxit, I., Scognamillo, D., Farrell, L., Sunquist, M.E., Eisenberg, J.F., 2003. Jaguars, pumas, their prey base, and cattle ranching: ecological interpretations of a management problem. Biol. Conserv. 109, 297–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ramakrishean, U., Coss, R.G., Pelkey, N.W., 1999. Tiger decline caused by the reduction of large ungulate prey: evidence from a study of leopard diets in southern India. Biol. Conserv. 89, 113–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rasmussen, G.S.A., 1999. Livestock predation by the painted hunting dog Lycaon pictus in a cattle ranching region of Zimbabwe: a case study. Biol. Conserv. 88, 133–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ray, J.C., Redford, K.H., Steneck, R.S., Berger, J. (Eds.), 2005. Large Carnivores and the Conservation of Biodiversity. Island Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  49. Sara, A.A., 2010. Mitigating Drought: Policy Impact Evaluation. A Case of Tigray Region, Ethiopia. Msc. Thesis, University of Twente. The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  50. Schaller, G.B., 1972. The Serengeti Lion. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  51. Sillero-Zubiri, C., Gottelli, D., 1992. Population ecology of spotted hyaenas in an equatorial mountain forest. Afr. J. Ecol. 30, 292–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Smith, J.E., Holekamp, K.E., 2010. Spotted Hyenas. Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Stander, P.E., Haden, P.J., Kaqece, G., 1997. The ecology of asociality in Namibian leopards. J. Zool. (Lond.) 242, 343–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Trinkel, M., 2009. A keystone predator at risk? Density and distribution of the spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta in the Etosha National Park, Namibia. Can. J. Zool. 87, 928–935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Van Orsdol, K.G., Hanby, J.P., Bygott, J.D., 1985. Ecological correlates of lion social organization (Panthera leo). J. Zool. (Lond.) 206, 97–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Woodroffe, R., Ginsberg, J.R., 1998. Edge effects and the extinction of populations inside protected areas. Science 280, 2126–2128.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Woodroffe, R., Thirgood, S., Rabinowitz, A. (Eds.), 2005. People and Wildlife: Conflict or Coexistence? Cambridge University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  58. Yirga, G., Bauer, H., 2010. Livestock Depredation of the Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) in Southern Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. Int. J. Ecol. Environ. Sci. 36, 67–73.Google Scholar
  59. Yirga, G., De Iongh, H.H., Leirs, H., Gebrehiwot, K., Deckers, J., Bauer, H., 2012. Adaptability of large carnivores to changing anthropogenic food sources: diet change of spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) during Christian fasting period in northern Ethiopia. J. Anim. Ecol. 81, 1052–1055.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gidey Yirga
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wondimu Ersino
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hans H. De Iongh
    • 3
    • 4
  • Herwig Leirs
    • 4
    • 5
  • Kindeya Gebrehiwot
    • 6
  • Jozef Deckers
    • 7
  • Hans Bauer
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of BiologyMekelle UniversityMekelleEthiopia
  2. 2.Department of BiologyDebre-Tabor UniversityDebre-TaborEthiopia
  3. 3.Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Evolutionary Ecology Group, University of AntwerpAntwerpenBelgium
  5. 5.Department of Agro-ecologyAarhus UniversitySlagelseDenmark
  6. 6.Department of Land Resource Management and Environmental ProtectionMekelle UniversityMekelleEthiopia
  7. 7.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesKU Leuven UniversityHeverleeBelgium
  8. 8.Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, ZoologyUniversity of Oxford. Tubney HouseTubneyUK

Personalised recommendations