Counting the striped hyena

Friday, November 12th, 2010
Striped Hyena. Photo courtesy: D Karnad

Striped Hyena. Photo courtesy: D Karnad

A team of researchers from NCBS and the Centre for Wildlife studies, Bangalore has brought out the first account of the striped hyena from India. The study, conducted by Priya Singh, Arjun Gopalswamy and Dr Ullas Karanth, formed a part of Priya’s Master’s thesis. Their study involved estimating the population abundances of hyenas in the Kumbalgarh and Esrana regions of Rajasthan, and was published in the journal Mammology.

The striped hyena is a scavenger that has begun to depend to a large extent on the carcasses of domestic livestock. As a result hyenas and humans often cohabit, albeit at different times of the day. The authors of this study suspected that the hyenas might prefer to den in areas away from humans, particularly when they have cubs, because they face constant harassment and pressure in human dominated landscapes. Basing the design of their study on this hypothesis, the researchers set out automatic camera–traps, which were programmed to take a picture when motion was detected by a sensor on the camera. These were set up both in the more protected Kumbalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and in the more human dominated Esrana Forest Range. About 307 sq. km within the protected area and 218 sq. km in the reserve forest were covered during the study.

More hyenas were found in the protected area (a density of 6.5 hyenas/100 km2± 6 2.6) compared to the Esrana Reserve Forest (3.67 ±6 0.3 hyenas/100 km2), supporting the hypothesis that human harassment was forcing hyenas into the confines of Kumbalgarh. Additionally, hilly terrain that might support hyena dens was found to a greater extent within Kumbalgarh but livestock were more abundant in Esrana. Ultimately, they found that although livestock were an important food source for the hyenas, and this could help them live alongside humans, hyenas requirs denning areas free of human disturbance in order to survive.


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