Since its start in 2011, ‘Project Impisi’ has been an amazing success. Following translocation from farm land, 4 of our 5 brown hyaenas were recorded to survive, establish and reproduce here on Pidwa. 3 years further on and we have confirmed 3 sets of cubs. As their population grows, the hyaenas are starting to spread further afield and cover new areas of the reserve in order to meet their needs.
This is why we were so excited by our most recent findings on a bush walk close to the house, here at Askari this week. We have been seeing hyaena tracks fairly regularly – yet even the trained eye will struggle to tell the difference between those belonging to a brown and those from a spotted hyaena. Hopeful that they belonged to one of our browns, further confirmation came with the discovery of not 1, not 2 but 3 fresh anal pastings!
The anal paste smells about as bad as you might imagine a substance would when secreted from the anal gland of a hyaena! It is a form of scent-marking that can be found on grass stalks around two thirds of the way up (perfect nose height for a hyaena!). Not only does it communicate information to fellow clan members but also to those of rival clans. The bottom mark is initially white which turns caramel and then brown over time. It is long lasting and presumed to be territorial warning intruders (hyaneas from other clans) that they are trespassing. The top mark is a message to fellow clan members to say that the area has been foraged recently and to move on somewhere else; it is brown in colour and lasts only a few days.
A little further on in our walk and we came across a hyaena scat, right next to an old wildebeest carcass which has been completely cleared. The scat is easily characterised by the shape, content, and size. The green-creamy colour seen here indicates the freshness of the scat.
It’s exciting to think that a brown hyaena may be establishing its home range right here around the Askari house.
In the coming weeks we will place camera traps to try and catch a glimpse of the hyaena and work out if it is one of our original adults or a young one moving into the area. We will keep you posted but in the meantime these photos come from a camera trap set at the den of our second pair of adults who are busy rearing 2 cubs.