Hyaena brunnea


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Hyaena brunnea
Species Authority: Thunberg, 1820
Common Name(s):
English Brown Hyaena
Parahyaena brunnea (Thunberg, 1820)
Taxonomic Notes: This species is sometimes included in the genus Parahyaena (e.g., Wozencraft 1993). However, Jenks and Werdelin (1998) proposed that in the absence of clear-cut data regarding rank among hyaenas and because cytochrome b data unite striped and brown hyaenas as sister taxa relative to Crocuta and Proteles, the former two should be placed together in the genus Hyaena. They acknowledged that the split between striped and brown hyaena is relatively old (Miocene) by placing the two in different subgenera, Hyaena (Hyaena) and Hyaena (Parahyaena).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Wiesel, I., Maude, G., Scott, D. & Mills, G.
Reviewer(s): Mills, G. (Hyaena Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Near Threatened as the 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. Almost qualifies as threatened under criterion C1.
1994 Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Vulnerable (IUCN 1990)
1988 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Endemic to southern Africa except for a marginal extension into the arid parts of south-western Angola. 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 south-west of the continent (Hofer and Mills 1998a; Mills in press). 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) where it was believed to be extirpated, so it may be recolonizing some of these areas (Hofer and Mills 1998a), although it seems more likely that these were vagrants. Records from Malawi are erroneous (see discussion in Ansell and Dowsett 1988).
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Lesotho; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa; Zimbabwe
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). A recent national population estimate for Namibia (undertaken in 2004) puts the number of Brown Hyaenas at 522 - 1187 animals (Hanssen and Stander 2004).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The Brown Hyaena is found in desert areas 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 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 fruits, insects, birds’ eggs and the occasional small animal which is killed; their impact on domestic livestock is usually small (Mills 1998; in press). Along the Namib Desert Coast, Brown Hyaenas are successful hunters of Cape Fur Seal pups (e.g, Wiesel 2006).
Systems: Terrestrial

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 programmes (Mills 1998). In an ongoing survey of land-owners in the North-West province of South Africa, it was apparent that there are still strong negative attitudes towards Brown Hyaenas: nearly half of ~50 interviewees used lethal control in the form of ‘call-in’ and shooting, poisoning or live trapping, with 127 Brown Hyaenas reported to have been killed within the land held by the interviewees (an area of 1613 km²) (D. Scott, R. Yarnell and M. Thorn pers. comm.).

Although used in traditional medicine and rituals, it is not nearly as sought after in this regard as the spotted hyaena (Hofer and Mills 1998b).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Brown Hyaena occur in a number of large conservation areas, including: Namib-Naukluft, Skeleton Coast, Sperrgebiet and Etosha National Parks (Namibia), Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (South Africa, Botswana), Pilanesberg N.P. (South Africa), and the Central Kalahari G.R. (Botswana). However, Brown Hyaenas are still often recorded outside protected areas: in an ongoing survey of nearly 50 landowners in South Africa's North-West Province between October 2006 and May 2007, 67% of interviewees reported sightings of Brown Hyaena on their property with the preceding 12 months (D. Scott, R. Yarnell and M. Thorn pers. comm.).

Citation: Wiesel, I., Maude, G., Scott, D. & Mills, G. 2008. Hyaena brunnea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 27 May 2015.
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