Once upon a time, way back in my childhood, our family took the annual visit to the Kruger Park. Soon after the fire’s coals had died one night, and our group headed off to find their sleeping bags laid out under the stars, one of the children had part of his nose taken off by a hyaena. He survived. His nose healed.
That memory and another – whereby a hyaena allegedly drank too much wine in a remote bush village, then went on a rampage killing a number of people – have thankfully not overshadowed the more gentle and prolific memories I have of watching hyaenas in the wild.
The lure of their mystery compels.
The call of the hyaena has the capacity to touch ancient, primordial parts of our human selves when delivered from the depth of African wilderness. But it is the negative stories, that all too often, leave an impression on those of us who have had no close contact with wild species.
We are left with the odd, unusual anecdote and tons of derogatory myths designed by humans.
These misconceptions allow us to make broad assumptions and generalise about other species.
Yet those who get closer, often paint a vivid opposing story. Some of us are entirely comfortable with finding harmonious ways to co-exist with predators like lions, bears or hyaenas. Others with snakes,or the less dangerous but challenging omnivorous primates.
This seems to be possible once we learn their language, their laws, their ways…when we practice tolerance, patience and a willingness to look at the big picture. And all too often, when this happens, we realise how lacking human knowledge can be.
While a number of residents find co-existing with wild primates inconvenient and unacceptable, there are communities – in other parts of Africa – that have found a way to co-exist with the wildest of predators.
Is it simply a matter of attitude? Or the degree of human arrogance?
Is it as easy as breaking down our walls of perception……those age-old misconceptions we have been lulled into believing are fact?
To find out more about the interface between humans and hyaenas, visit Marcus Baynes-Rock’s blog site below.
It will make you wonder about far more than what you came here for….
Co-existing With Hyenas in Harar, Ethiopia:
Quote: Marcus Baynes-Rock:
“Today, these animals, because of their size, their range requirements and their habit of preying on people and livestock, have been persecuted and driven to the point of extinction and beyond in many cases. It is testimony to their natural intelligence and their potential to adapt to an ever-changing environment that many of these species have managed to persist in the face of human persecution and that many have recovered where governments and local populations have so allowed them.
My current research is focused on the spotted hyenas in a town in Ethiopia. Harar is an ancient Muslim city surrounded by a wall that was built in the 16th century to protect the town’s inhabitants from hostile neighbours. However, the city wall has holes incorporated into it, to enable access for the spotted hyenas that live in the hills around the town. For centuries hyenas have entered the town at night to ‘clean up’ the refuse that the townspeople produce and the hyenas have found their way into the town’s traditions, folklore and even its emerging tourist industry. Harar is an unusual example of reconciliation and mutual understanding between humans and large carnivores that raises questions about western ideas of exclusion of wild mammals from urban environments.For further information about my research in Harar, visit my blog