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Team collaring spotted hyena
The collaring team at work © Wild Tomorrow Fund

Press release from Wild Tomorrow Fund

Last month, a new phase of the Mun-Ya-Wana Conservancy Spotted Hyena Project (MCSHP) commenced with the collaring of the first of over a dozen spotted hyena with a GPS/VHF collar. Based at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, the MCSHP has worked to monitor the hyena populations within Phinda and the neighbouring uMkhuze Game Reserve since 2014.

The project is led by ecologist Axel Hunnicutt from Wild Tomorrow Fund, who has watched and recorded the decline of spotted hyenas over the last four years. The MCSHP contributed to and authored the 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Regional Red List Assessment for spotted hyena, listing them as Near Threatened in Southern Africa, due to low survival probabilities for the cubs and adults resident at Phinda and uMkhuze, as well as declining population trends.

“Unlike most large carnivores in Africa, spotted hyenas have largely been outside the spotlight for both research and public support. This project is unique in both its intensity and scale, to better understand how spotted hyena utilise the mixed landscape in Zululand,” said Hunnicutt. “These collared hyenas will help us answer a variety of questions about how hyena and people interact, and will educate us on how to better conserve thee species.”

Blindfolded hyena during collaring
The hyena is blindfolded during the collaring © Wild Tomorrow Fund

This next step in hyena research was made possible through a grant from the Oak Foundation, along with the support of Wild Tomorrow Fund, andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, and the Mun-Ya-Wana Conservancy. Collaring the hyenas enables Hunnicutt and his team to study how hyenas utilise the landscape both inside and outside of protected areas.

Using a cell phone signal, the collars transmit information about the hyena’s exact location, speed, and temperature every four hours.

Taking hyena teeth measurements
Taking teeth measurements © Wild Tomorrow Fund

The collared male is the first of 14 spotted hyenas of different ages, social rank and sex to be collared for the project across the Mun-Ya-Wana Conservancy, uMkhuze Game Reserve and the surrounding area. Over the next several years the MCSHP will examine how these animals move through areas with different levels of conservation protection, what they eat and how they interact with people, learning more about how to help this threatened population.

Hyena with collar
© Wild Tomorrow Fund

AndBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, a part of the Mun-Ya-Wana Conservancy, is an ideal study site for spotted hyena since it is situated between local communities and farmlands, which are relatively unprotected habitat for hyenas, and the uMkhuze Game Reserve, a park that has been protected for over 100 years.

Phinda Private Game Reserve landscape
Phinda Private Game Reserve © Wild Tomorrow Fund

“Spotted hyena move across the landscape, with vast territories and home ranges that cover both formal protected parks, private reserves, local communities and farms with commercial livestock in and around andBeyond Phinda,” says Simon Naylor, Reserve Manager &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve.

“This study will hopefully reveal more detailed information about the spotted hyena population in this part of Zululand. Outside these protected areas, these animals are coming into conflict with communities and commercial livestock farmers. The information gained will hopefully also advise how best to mitigate these conflicts and assist in the future survival of these much maligned and persecuted animals. I believe it is possible for all the different land users to co-habit the landscape with these animals. This study will assist us in finding the best solutions for this,” concludes Simon.

Watch the video below for more information about the Mun-Ya-Wana Conservancy Spotted Hyena Project


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