By Mark McConville
OPPORTUNISTIC spotted hyenas have been photographed scavenging for food in town with the wild animals even letting men feed them by hand.
In the UK we have urban foxes, but as a clever way to protect livestock, these stunning pictures show men dangling scraps of meat from their hands as hungry hyenas gently take the flesh into their mouths.
Other incredible images show the hyenas roaming the urban area as they search for any potential food, including in some skips.
The remarkable photographs were taken in Harar, Ethiopia by wildlife photographer Luke Massey.
“In some parts of Africa hyenas do hunt, however they are thought of scavengers mainly,” he said.
“In Harar livestock was once hunted by the hyenas, but the locals decided to feed them to keep them full and not in need of other food sources in the form of livestock.
“Harar has also been inhabited for a long time and the hyenas can live off of the human waste.
“Many humans encounter the hyenas within Harar and there are is no conflict, the hyenas are more scared of people and run away.”
The spotted hyena is a highly successful animal, being the most common large carnivore in Africa. Its success is due in part to its adaptability and opportunism; it is primarily a hunter but may also scavenge, with the capacity to eat and digest skin, bone and other animal waste. In functional terms, the spotted hyena makes the most efficient use of animal matter of all African carnivores.
The spotted hyena has a long history of interaction with humanity; depictions of the species exist from the Upper Paleolithic period, with carvings and paintings from the Lascaux and Chauvet Caves.
The species has a largely negative reputation in both Western culture and African folklore. In the former, the species is mostly regarded as ugly and cowardly, while in the latter, it is viewed as greedy, gluttonous, stupid, and foolish, yet powerful and potentially dangerous.
“Hyenas have been fed in Harar for a very long time, a religious festival involves feeding the hyenas from bowls, but some local men took it upon themselves to feed the hyenas by hand and developed a relationship with them,” added Massey.
“Now, due to tourism in the area some of the younger men have realised there is good money to be made by hand feeding the hyenas in front of, and with, tourists. They feed them meat scraps, their favourite being goat. Most hyena men feed them on a nightly basis.”