Hyenas Laughing

(Follow Link to BBC Report)

From BBC Report

The spotted or laughing hyena is the largest member of Hyaenidae inhabiting open areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa. These highly social predators are often erroneously labeled as strict scavengers like other members of this clade of hyaenid carnivorans. Other species include, striped hyenas, brown hyenas, and aardwolves (earth wolves).

Unlike other hyaenids, the foraging ecology of spotted hyenas is often considered similar to that of large African felids and canids with respect to their prey base and predatory behavior. They are certainly known for being indiscriminant  scavengers with robust digestive systems permitting the consumption of  very large ungulate bones. However, they hunt their fair share of ungulates, competing heavily with lions. Common prey include wildebeests, zebra and Thompson’s gazelles, but as predators they are also quite indiscriminant. Spotted hyenas have been reported to catch fish, tortoises, pythons, pangolins, and prey on black rhinos, hippo calves, young elephants, as well as humans, among other species, including a host of different ungulate species. They will avoid some of the largest of adult ungulates.   In captivity, they may live as long as 10-12 years, but have been known to live as long as 25 yrs.  These nocturnal animals are not rare is zoo collections, but are on display primarily for educational purposes, as their conservation status places them at a lower risk than many other members of their large African carnivore community.

The San Diego Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, the St. Louis Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Miami MetroZoo, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, the Milwaukee County Zoo, the San Antonio Zoo, the Denver Zoo, the Honolulu Zoo, the Sacramento Zoo, the Oakland Zoo, the Rio Grande Zoo (NM), the Seneca Park Zoo (Rochester, NY), and the Oklahoma City Zoo are just some of the living institutions where you can see spotted hyenas in North America.

I welcome you to join  wildcanidkeepers@yahoogroups.com, a mailing list that serves global husbandry and health professionals working with canids and hyaenids managed in captive facilities for behavioral/endocrinological research and for educational exhibition.

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus

The Underappreciated Camelid


Congratulations to the St. Louis Zoo. The zoo recently celebrated the birth of a Bactrian camel calf.

I remember as a young keeper being tasked with exercising a Bactrian camel calf in the early mornings of a typically hot Midwestern summer. Just like many neonates of large ungulates, this animal was pretty big despite his age. You may not realize this until you have one on a lead and he’s running you to exhaustion.

If you have ridden or worked with dromedary camels and/or have experience working with Bactrians camels you can well appreciate the differences between these two true camel species, and their special adaptations for the environments they inhabit. Notice the humps of course.  The smaller New World camelids are also sometimes referred to as camels (e.g., guanacos, alapacas, etc). Hybrids of  Old World (true camels) and New World camelids also exist (e.g., Dromedary X Llama = Cama).

With the exception of  approximately 700,000 feral dromedary camels in Australia (introduced by the Afghans in the 19th century), the greater majority of these animals living today are domesticated. The majority of Bactrians are also domesticated.  However,  the declining wild population of Bactrian camels may number as few as 800 or less. This remnant population from the Gobi desert (Mongolia/China) has drawn much attention from conservationists making the Bactrian camel a species of special concern.  Bactrian camels were listed as one of the top-10 “focal species” in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.

Working with Bactrian camels in captivity can be quite dangerous and hence, precautions may be taken to work these animals in a “protected contact” environment such that keepers and handlers train and care for the animals, but do not enter the enclosure with them.  Bactrians may not look that big until you stand next to one.

I recommend a colleague’s site for ungulate resources:


Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus