Most of you would be familiar with that classic film, The Lion King. Simba the lion cub loses his dad, but eventually defeats his mean uncle and a “slow-witted” gang of hyaenas to become king. We know it’s a great story (with an amazing soundtrack), but there is one problem we have with it…hyaenas are completely misrepresented.

Here at Perth Zoo we have two incredible Spotted Hyaenas, 18-year-old Kigana and Sabi, who just celebrated his 10th birthday today!

Recently we had a research student from the USA, Molly McGavick, keeping a close eye on our hyaenas for us, as part of an animal welfare research study. It was organised to see how our hyaenas were responding to the construction happening next door for the lion exhibit upgrade.

“This lets us make informed decisions so we can keep the hyaenas happy, healthy, and as stress free as possible,” Molly said.

During her observations in the African Savannah, Molly noticed many visitors sharing a poor view on hyaenas.

“They are painted as being very aggressive animals, unintelligent and have been given a very bad reputation from movies like The Lion King,” she said.

“The reality is they are very skilled hunters, not just scavengers and they’re actually kind of cute if you look at them.”

Senior Zoo keeper, Becky Thomasson, knows our hyaenas well and does regular training sessions with them to keep Sabi and Kigana thinking, active and healthy.

“We train a range of behaviours for both of our hyaenas, a lot of them are for medical reasons,” Becky said.

Some of the behaviours include asking them to open their mouths or presenting various body parts against the fence of their night quarters. This allows our keepers and vets to work with them safely if they ever need a quick health check or simple treatments.

Kigana and Sabi, have developed a special relationship with their keepers.

“They are very intelligent, very smart and they are also very affectionate animals,” Becky said.

Check out the video to see Sabi enjoying his birthday celebrations, and both of our hyaenas enjoying a training session.

Melissa Leo
Media and Communications Officer