Crocuta crocuta 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Hyaenidae

Scientific Name: Crocuta crocuta
Species Authority: (Erxleben, 1777)
Common Name(s):
English Spotted Hyaena

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-10-01
Assessor(s): Bohm, T. & Höner, O.R.
Reviewer(s): Dloniak, S.M.D. & Holekamp, E.
Contributor(s): Mills, M.G.L.
Listed as Least Concern as the species remains widespread in Africa, and the total world population well exceeds 10,000 mature individuals. There is a continuing decline in populations outside protected areas (and even within some protected areas) due to persecution and habitat loss, although this is not sufficient to warrant listing in a threatened category.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Spotted Hyaenas are relatively widely distributed in Africa, south of the Sahara. Their current distribution is patchy, especially in West and Central Africa, with populations often concentrated in protected areas. More continuous distributions persist over large areas of Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Angola, Namibia, and parts of South Africa. Künzel et al. (2000) reported that Spotted Hyaenas are still widespread in Djibouti, and Grubb et al. (1998) noted the same for Gambia. Long-term studies on Spotted Hyaenas and recent surveys have confirmed their presence in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, The Republic of Congo, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe (Vermeulen 2007, Henschel et al. 2014, Höner et al. 2012, East and Hofer 2010, Holekamp and Dloniak 2010, T. Aebischer pers. comm. 2014).

In Eritrea, Spotted Hyaenas have not or only very rarely been sighted until 2007, but they are now regularly sighted throughout the country (F. Hagos pers. comm. 2014). It is thus likely that Spotted Hyaenas established a small population in Eritrea. Spotted Hyaenas may occasionally enter Gabon from The Republic of Congo but there is no evidence to suggest that there is a resident population in Gabon (Bohm 2012, Henschel et al. 2014). Hofer and Mills (1998a) reported the species as extinct in Algeria where they may have occurred in the Ahaggar and Tassili d’Ajjer. There is also no confirmed evidence of their occurrence in Egypt, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Tunisia, or Morocco, and no recent records from Togo.
Countries occurrence:
Angola (Angola); Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Djibouti; Equatorial Guinea; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Kenya; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Possibly extinct:
Algeria; Togo
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):4100
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Viable populations exist in a number of countries and a tentative estimate of the total global population is between 27,000 and 47,000. The largest known populations occur in the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania and Kenya (7,200-7,700 in the Tanzanian sector and 500-1,000 in the Kenyan sector) and the Kruger National Park in South Africa (1,300-3,900).

Population densities based on systematic censuses vary substantially, from 0.006 individuals per km² in Namibia to 2.4 individuals per km² in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania (Hofer and Mills 1998b, Holekamp and Dloniak 2010, Höner et al. 2012). Low population densities occur in semi-desert areas in southern Africa (0.006-0.05 individuals per km²), such as the Namib (Tilson and Henschel 1986) and Etosha Pan (Gasaway et al. 1991). High densities occur in savanna and some open woodlands in Tanzania and Kenya, as well as in montane forests (0.32-2.4 individuals per km²), such as Selous Game Reserve (Creel and Creel 1996), Aberdare National Park (Sillero-Zubiri and Gotelli 1992) and Ngorongoro Crater (Höner et al. 2012). Most populations in protected areas in southern Africa and several populations in eastern Africa are considered to be stable.

There is evidence that a few populations have increased during the past years. In Eritrea, there were no confirmed records of the species until the 1990s, but since then, Spotted Hyaenas have been recorded throughout the country and the population is believed to be increasing (F. Hagos pers. comm. 2014). Similarly, in Chad, the population of the largest national park has experienced a two-fold increase during the last few years (Olléová and Dogringar 2013). In contrast, many populations in eastern, central and western Africa, are considered to be declining, even in protected areas, mostly due to an increase in human-wildlife conflict during which humans poison and cull Spotted Hyaenas, and due to incidental snaring (Hofer and Mills 1998b, Holekamp and Dloniak, pers. obs.). In Gabon, substantial efforts to find Spotted Hyenas revealed that single individuals from The Republic of Congo may enter Gabon from time to time, but there is no evidence of a resident population in Gabon (Bohm 2012, Henschel et al. 2014).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:UnknownPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:UnknownAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Spotted Hyaenas are present in all habitats including semi-desert, savanna and open woodland, dense dry woodland, and even montane habitats, such as in the Aberdares, Mt Kenya, and the Ethiopian Highlands, up to 4,100 m altitude (Young and Evans 1993, East and Hofer 2013). It is absent from, or present at very low densities in, extreme desert conditions, the highest altitudes on mountains, and tropical rainforests, although they may make deep incursions into forested areas where logging roads provide access (Kingdon 1977, Henschel and Ray 2003). In many parts of their range, they occur in close association with human habitations. Although long periods may elapse between drinking, Spotted Hyaenas are at least somewhat dependent on water, and Tilson and Henschel (1986) recorded an instance where a clan dispersed after the only water source in their range dried up. Often considered just scavengers, Spotted Hyaenas are in fact effective and flexible hunters as well (Kruuk 1972, Höner et al. 2002); damage to domestic stock mainly involves cattle, sheep, and goats and varies widely in intensity (Hofer 1998). The ecology of the species is reviewed by Holekamp and Dloniak (2010) and East and Hofer (2013).
Generation Length (years):5.7
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In at least two locations in Ethiopia, live, wild Spotted Hyaenas are utilized by locals for tourism. Tourists pay to feed Spotted Hyaenas by hand, and some believe that the hyaenas take away bad spirits and that feeding them will cure various ailments. Hair and scraps of skin are often collected from dead animals and are used as talismans. In several areas in Tanzania, Spotted Hyaenas and their body parts are utilized for witchcraft. In Nigeria, local people earn money by keeping Spotted Hyaenas and showing them to spectators on exhibition walks.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Outside protected areas, populations are subject to persecution by humans through culling (shooting and spearing), trapping and poisoning. Such activities may sometimes occur within the boundaries of conservation areas: mortality due to wire snares set to catch wild herbivores for meat is an important cause of adult mortality in the Serengeti, where snares kill around 400 adult Spotted Hyaenas each year and are responsible for more than half of all adult mortality (Hofer et al. 1996). Apparently only since the mid-1970s has game meat hunting rapidly expanded, as more people have moved within walking distance of the boundaries of protected areas such as in the north and west of the Serengeti (Hofer 1998). Entire clans of Spotted Hyaenas may be killed by poisoning (Holekamp et al. 1993), and many individuals are killed when hit by vehicles. Spotted Hyaena populations in protected areas may be decimated by authorities when they are considered a threat for other wildlife species such as lions, cheetahs and rhinos. Government officials and managers may also allow local human residents within protected areas to kill Spotted Hyaenas when they are suspected or known to have preyed upon livestock. The numbers killed by licensed sport hunters are probably small as they are not considered an attractive species. It is also killed for food, medicine and witchcraft (Hofer and Mills 1998b). A further threat is posed by the decline in densities of wildlife species consumed by Spotted Hyaenas due to habitat loss caused by increased human settlement, overgrazing by livestock, and game-meat hunting by humans.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Legal classification varies from “vermin” (parts of Ethiopia) to fully protected in conservation areas. Thus, while it is fully protected in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the Spotted Hyaena may be legally shot by sport hunters in the adjacent Maswa Game Reserve. In some protected areas, Spotted Hyaenas may be legally killed by resident humans when they have preyed upon livestock.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
2. Savanna -> 2.1. Savanna - Dry
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.5. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
4. Grassland -> 4.7. Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical High Altitude
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.2. Resource & habitat protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.1. Site/area management
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.2. Unintentional effects (species is not the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Majority (50-90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Medium Impact: 6 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Medicine - human & veterinary
 Local : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Bohm, T. 2012. Mission report of scientific studies in the National Parks of Gabon. Report to the Secrétariat de la Commission Scientifique sur les Autorisations de Recherche du CENAREST, and to the Secrétariat Exécutif de l'ANPN.

Creel, S. and Creel N.M. 1996. Limitation of African wild dogs by competition with larger carnivores. Conservation Biology 10(2): 526-538.

East, M.L. and Hofer, H. 2010. Social environments, social tactics and their fitness consequences in complex mammalian societies. In: T. Székely, A.J. Moore and J. Komdeur (eds), Social Behaviour: Genes, Ecology and Evolution, pp. 360-390. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gasaway, W.C., Mossestad, K.T. and Stander, P.E. 1991. Food acquisition by spotted hyaenas in Etosha-National-Park, Namibia – Predation versus scavenging. African Journal of Ecology 29(1): 64-75.

Grubb, P., Jones, T.S., Davies, A.G., Edberg, E., Starin, E.D. and Hill, J.E. 1998. Mammals of Ghana, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. Trendrine Press, Zennor, St Ives, Cornwall, UK.

Henschel, P. and Ray, J.C. 2003. Leopards in African Rainforests: Survey and Monitoring Techniques. Wildlife Conservation Society, Global Carnivore Program, New York, USA.

Henschel, P., Coad, L., Burton, C., Chataigner, B., Dunn, A., MacDonald, D., Saidu, Y. and Hunter, L.T.B. 2014. The lion in West Africa is critically endangered. PLoS ONE 9(1): e83500.

Hofer, H. 1998. Spotted hyaena Crocuta crocuta (Erxleben, 1777). In: G. Mills and H. Hofer (eds), Hyaenas. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, pp. 29-38. IUCN/SSC Hyaena Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Hofer, H. and East, M. 2013. Crocuta crocuta. In: J. Kingdon and M. Hoffmann (eds), The Mammals of Africa. Volume V: Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids, Rhinoceroses, pp. 560. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

Hofer, H. and Mills, M.G.L. 1998a. Worldwide distribution of Hyaenas. In: M.G.L. Mills and H. Hofer (eds), Hyaenas. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, pp. 39-63. IUCN/SSC Hyaena Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Hofer, H. and Mills, M.G.L. 1998b. Population size, threats and conservation status of hyaenas. In: M.G.L. Mills and H. Hofer (eds), Hyaenas. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, pp. 64-79. IUCN/SSC Hyaena Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.

Hofer, H., Campbell, K.L.I., East, M.L. and Huish, S.A. 1996. The impact of game meat hunting on target and non-target species in the Serengeti. In: V.J. Taylor and N. Dunstone (eds), The exploitation of mammal populations, pp. 117-146. Chapman and Hal, London, UK.

Holekamp, K.E. and Dloniak, S.M. 2010. Intraspecific variation in the behavioral ecology of a tropical carnivore, the spotted hyena. Advances in the Study of Behavior 42: 189-229.

Holekamp, K.E., Ogutu, J.O., Dublin, H.T., Frank, L.G. and Smale, L. 1993. Fission of a spotted hyaena clan: consequences of prolonged female absenteeism and causes of female emigration. Ethology 93: 285-299.

Höner, O.P., Wachter, B., Goller, K.V., Hofer, H., Runyoro, V., Thierer, D., Fyumagwa, R.D., Müller, T. and East, M.L. 2012. The impact of a pathogenic bacterium on a social carnivore population. Journal of Animal Ecology 81: 36-46.

Höner, O.P., Wachter, B., Hofer, H. and East, M.L. 2002. The response of spotted hyenas to long-term changes in prey populations: functional response and interspecific kleptoparasitism. Journal of Animal Ecology 71: 236-246.

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Citation: Bohm, T. & Höner, O.R. 2015. Crocuta crocuta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T5674A45194782. . Downloaded on 23 January 2017.
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