Thieves, scroungers, villains… Hyaena have been misunderstood for centuries, not least in their unflattering portrayal on The Lion King – but that’s not the real story!

We might be biased, but we think Spotted Hyaenas are some of the cleverest and sweetest carnivores around.
This International Hyaena Day, it’s time to set the record straight!

Nature’s cleaners

Hyaenas do scavenge some of their food, but this behaviour provides an essential service!

Acting like nature’s clean-up crew, they use their strong jaws and teeth to efficiently recycle bones, fur and other hard-to-digest food items that most animals can’t handle.

It’s not a glamorous task, but these nutrients help to keep the ecosystem stable, clearing away the debris and preventing the spread of disease!

They are also one of Africa’s most successful hunters, catching up to 95% of their own food.

Staying social

Hyaenas are a very social bunch, living in clans ranging from six to 100 members!

They live in a matriarchal society, so females lead the pack. They are fantastic mothers, investing more time in their cubs than most carnivores, and they can nurse their little ones for more than a year.

Hyaena form lifelong friendships and are very cooperative with their clan members and close relatives. They have a complex social structure, with smaller family groups that breakaway and reconnect with their clan over the seasons.

What’s that sound?

Hyaenas use their expressive vocal repertoire to communicate with others up to three miles away, with whoops, growls, and the infamous laugh!

They even have their own “whoop” sound that is unique to each individual – a bit like yelling their own name. Their family remembers the voices of their group mates to help them determine friend from foe!

Now that you hopefully love Hyaena as much as we do, we think you will enjoy a few moments with Sabi and Kigana from a morning in our Savannah.

Still not convinced? Let our keepers tell you why Hyaenas are the best!
Want to test your Hyaena knowledge? With their distinct cackles and mischievous antics Hyaenas have intrigued humans for centuries! Get ready for a howling good time with our Hyaena Trivia Challenge.