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This series of disturbing and yet fascinating images forms part of the work of acclaimed photographers Pieter Hugo and Adetokunbo Abiola in their book The Hyena & Other Men.

Photographer Pieter Hugo visited Nigeria to better understand this strange relationship between man and beast after seeing an image taken by Nigerian journalist Adetokunbo Abiola.

He travelled with this small family group of street performers and traditional medicine peddlers who use these animals as props, a practice handed down over many generations. Hugo described this arrangement as “…hybridisation of the urban and the wild, and the paradoxical relationship that the handlers have with their animals – sometimes doting and affectionate, sometimes brutal and cruel”. His description reminded me of so many other human/animal relationships that go the same way.

Personally I am horrified at the images and all they say about how their relationship with animals can become so twisted and conveniently devoid of any compassion.  And yet I feel myself drawn again and again to the images – just like the throngs of onlookers who pay money to see these animals perform in the streets of Nigeria.  If this wretched circus were to appear in your street would you also be drawn into staring and so play a role in the sick system?

Africa Geographic Travel

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Simon Espley

I am a proud African and honoured to be CEO of Africa Geographic. My travels in Africa are in search of wilderness, elusive birds and real people with interesting stories. I live in Hoedspruit, next to the Kruger National Park, with my wife Lizz and 2 Jack Russells. When not travelling or working I am usually on my mountain bike somewhere out there. I qualified as a chartered accountant but found my calling sharing Africa's incredibleness with you. My motto is "Live for now, have fun, be good, tread lightly and respect others. And embrace change". Connect with me on LinkedIn