Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Hyaenidae

Scientific Name: Parahyaena brunnea
Species Authority: (Thunberg, 1820)
Common Name(s):
English Brown Hyaena
Hyaena brunnea Thunberg, 1820
Taxonomic Source(s): Koepfli, K., Jenks, S.M., Eizirik, E., Zahirpour, T., Van Valkenburgh, B. and Wayne, R.K. 2006. Molecular systematics of the Hyaenidae: Relationships of a relictual lineage resolved by a molecular supermatrix. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38(3): 603–620.
Taxonomic Notes: Although previously placed in the same genus as the Striped Hyaena (genus Hyaena, e.g. Jenks and Werdelin 1998), Koepfli et al. (2006) place this species in its own genus Parahyaena (also see Wozencraft 1993). The sister taxon is the Striped Hyaena, Hyaena hyaena with which it last shared a common ancestor roughly 4.2 mya (Koepfli et al. 2006). The clade containing Brown and Striped Hyaenas last shared a common ancestor with the Spotted Hyaena roughly 8.6 mya (Koepfli et al. 2006).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-10-02
Assessor(s): Wiesel, I.
Reviewer(s): Dloniak, S.M.D. & Holekamp, E.
Contributor(s): Barker, N., Boast, L., Child, M.F., Clegg, B., Collison, W., Davis, R., Edwards, C., Flyman, M., Groom, R., Hanssen, L., Kelly, D., Kent, V., Maude, G., McNutt, T., Mills, M.G.L., Pegg, N., Scott, D., Stratford, K., Trethowan, P., Weise, F., Welch, R., Williams, K., Winterbach, C., Yarnell, R. & van der Meer, E.
Listed as Near Threatened as the mean global population size is estimated to be below 10,000 mature individuals, and experiences a measure of deliberate and incidental persecution such that it may come close to meeting a continuing decline of 10% over the next three generations (24 years). It almost qualifies as threatened under criterion C1.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2015 Near Threatened (NT)
2008 Near Threatened (NT)
2000 Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
1994 Vulnerable (V)
1990 Vulnerable (V)
1988 Vulnerable (V)
1986 Vulnerable (V)
1965 Status inadequately known-survey required or data sought

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Endemic to southern Africa with a marginal extension into the arid parts of southwestern Angola, southeastern Botswana, and the northern and western Cape regions of the Republic of South Africa. Almost 90% of the Brown Hyena population in Botswana occurs in the Southern Conservation Zone (Winterbach et al. 2014). The range of the Brown Hyaena has shrunk significantly since the end of the 18th century when it was last recorded from Table Bay in the extreme southwest of the continent (Hofer and Mills 1998a, Mills 1990). They remain widespread in southern Africa, and in recent years in South Africa have been recorded from the extreme south in the Western Cape (Gansbaai and Bredasdorp), possibly vagrants from a small population in the Little Karoo (Yarnell et al. 2013). Thorn et al. (2011a) found that Brown Hyena distribution in northern South Africa was larger than in previous estimates. However, in farm land in this same area, Brown Hyaena occupancy was estimated at 0.748 (±SE 0.1), and estimated overall density in agricultural land (0.15/100 km2, ±SE 0.08), which was an order of magnitude lower than in protected areas (Thorn et al. 2011b). Boast and Houser (2012) also found that Brown Hyena distribution in Ghanzi, Botswana was larger than previously believed. Several re-introductions have taken place in South Africa's Eastern Cape (e.g., Shamwari Game Reserve; Slater and Muller 2014), and sightings have since been recorded there (e.g., Hayward et al. 2007). Other range expansions have also been recorded from South Africa (Thorn et al. 2011a). Recent studies from Zimbabwe show a range expansion into the north/northwest region of the country (E. van der Meer pers. comm. 2014) and into the east (R. Groom pers. comm. 2014). They seem to be absent from southeast Namibia (I. Wiesel pers. comm. 2014) and the Zambezi region (former Caprivi Strip) (L. Hanssen pers. comm. 2014). No recent records are available from the central and western parts of South Africa's Northern Cape Province. Records from Malawi are erroneous (see discussion in Ansell and Dowsett 1988).
Countries occurrence:
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Lesotho; Namibia; South Africa; Zimbabwe
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2: 2400000-2450000
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The total population size on the continent has been estimated as at a minimum of 5,000 to 8,000 individuals, with Botswana having the largest population (an estimated 3,900 animals) (Hofer and Mills 1998b). However, numbers for Botswana may be higher, as one density study for the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Makgadikgadi Pans estimates the park's Brown Hyaena population at 2,253 animals (G. Maude pers. comm.). Winterbach and Winterbach (2014) estimate Botswana's total population in 2014 between 2,799 and 5,271 animals.  A recent national population estimate for Namibia puts the number of Brown Hyaenas at 566-2,440 animals (Stein et al. 2013). Thorn (2008, unpublished PhD thesis) estimates South Africa's population at 1,007 (31-2,316) animals. No recent population size estimates are available for Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Lesotho or Swaziland. Mean density of Brown Hyaenas on farmlands in Botswana was 2.3 per 100 km2 based on camera trap data, and 2.88 per 100 km2 based on spoor surveys (Kent and Hill 2013). Thorn et al. (2009) estimated population density in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa, at 2.8 per 100 km2.

Current Population Trend: Stable
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 4365-10111 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Brown Hyaena is found in dry areas, generally with annual rainfall less than 100 mm, particularly along the coast, semi-desert, open scrub and open woodland savanna with a maximum rainfall up to about 700 mm. It shows an ability to survive close to urban areas. It is predominantly nocturnal in its activity (Hulsman et al. 2010). The brown hyena is independent of drinking water, but needs some type of cover in which to lie up during the day. For this it favours rocky, mountainous areas with bush cover in the bushveld areas of South Africa (Skinner 1976). It is primarily a scavenger of a wide range of vertebrate remains, which is supplemented by wild fruit and other plant material, insects, birds’ eggs, and the occasional small animal which is killed; their impact on domestic livestock is usually very small (Mills 1998, 1990; Maude and Mills 2005; Schiess-Meier et al. 2007). On Namibian farmlands, Brown Hyaenas often scavenge from leopard kills (Stein et al. 2013). Along the Namib Desert Coast, Brown Hyaenas are successful hunters of Cape Fur Seal pups (e.g. Wiesel 2006, Wiesel 2010). Populations of Brown Hyaenas in non-protected areas comprise a significant proportion of the global population, suggesting that such areas are likely to be important for their sustained conservation (Kent and Hill 2013, Lindsey et al. 2013, Stein et al. 2013). Working in areas occupied by pastoralist herders, Maude and Mills (2005) found, that, although Brown Hyaenas feed on carcasses of livestock, there was no evidence to suggest that Brown Hyaenas hunted livestock, or any other significantly sized mammals. Thus the persecution of them because of perceived livestock predation is unjustified. The dietary benefit derived by the Brown Hyaenas from the presence of subsistence pastoralists and their livestock carcasses, may be the primary reason that Brown Hyaena populations are viable in cattle areas (Maude and Mills 2005).
Systems: Terrestrial
Generation Length (years): 8.5
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The bones and other parts of Brown Hyaenas are used for traditional medicinal and ritual purposes. Animals are also hunted by trophy hunters.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Outside protected areas, the Brown Hyaena may come into conflict with humans, and they are often shot, poisoned, trapped and hunted with dogs in predator eradication or control programmes, or inadvertently killed in non-selective control programs (Mills 1998). Brown Hyaena body parts are used in traditional medicine and Brown Hyaenas are also often unintentional victims of lethal problem animal control through poisons and poaching through snares (I. Wiesel, C. Edwards, L. Boast and R. Yarnell pers. comms. 2014). Lethal control remains the most predominant form of conflict resolution. The Brown Hyaena is regarded as a threat to livestock in some areas,  and over 72% of livestock owners in Namibia believe that the Brown Hyaena is responsible for losses (Lindsey et al. 2013), despite the finding that Brown Hyaenas very seldom prey on livestock (Maude and Mills 2005). In South Africa's North West Province 40% of livestock owners regard the Brown Hyaena as a problem animal (Thorn 2008), but in the North West Province, only 6% of surveyed farmers admit to having killed brown hyenas on their property (St John et al. 2011). Persecution in small stock areas in Namibia has lead to the local extinction of Brown Hyaenas in the southeastern parts of that country, where increasing conflict may lead to further population decline.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Brown Hyaenas occur in a number of large conservation areas, including: Namib-Naukluft, Skeleton Coast, Tsau//Khaeb (Sperrgebiet) and Etosha National Parks (Namibia), Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (South Africa, Botswana), Makgadikgadi National Park (Botswana), Pilanesberg National Park (South Africa), Shamwari Game Reserve (Eastern Cape, South Africa), and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (Botswana). A recent study from Botswana suggested that a significant proportion of the global Brown Hyaena population is found in non-protected areas, and that these animals can also tolerate land-use changes under some circumstances (Kent and Hill 2013). Boast and Houser (2012) found that Brown Hyaenas occurred evenly on game and cattle farms in Botswana, and in Namibia 54.5% of farm owners reported Brown Hyaena presence (Lindsey et al. 2013). Increased efforts to educate farmers and pastoralists about the fact that Brown Hyenas pose very little risk to livestock is likely to enhance conservation of these animals.

Citation: Wiesel, I. 2015. Parahyaena brunnea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T10276A45195516. . Downloaded on 09 October 2015.
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