Habitat for Hyenas

Our spotted hyena brothers

At the San Diego Zoo, we are constantly trying to improve our animal’s homes; whether it is a minor renovation or a brand-new exhibit, we’re always trying to provide the best for our animals. The most recent recipients of an upgrade were our two spotted hyena brothers, Turbo and Zephyr.

Turbo and Zephyr recently moved into the exhibit formerly inhabited by our African wild dogs; you can see them best by riding the speed ramp from Asian Passage up to Elephant Odyssey. A domino effect of improvements and moves led to the hyena’s relocation. Jama, the North Chinese leopard, moved into his brand-new exhibit at the kopje in Africa Rocks. Wanda, our lone African wild dog, was then moved into Jama’s former home where it’s easier for us to give her extra TLC in her advanced age. This left the wild dog enclosure available for the hyenas to upgrade into. They now have much more room to roam, natural substrate and grasses to rest on, live trees for shade, and even a den inside a faux termite mound to beat the heat of our hottest summer days. The boys adjusted quickly to their new surroundings. Turbo can at times be seen sprinting around enjoying his increased space, and both have been busy digging around in the dirt.

Visit our boys and gain an appreciation for an animal that has somewhat of an undeserved reputation. Years of human legend and Hollywood movie portrayals have painted the hyena as a mangy scavenger. Although scavengers are a very important part of an ecosystem, in reality hyenas are actually one of the most formidable predators of the African plains. Sure, a pack of hyenas “appropriate” a meal when given the chance, but many studies have shown that hyenas are actually very efficient hunters and that the “king of the jungle,” the African lion, actually scavenges more frequently than hyenas do. Hyenas are also very unusual in that they look much like a dog but are not closely related to canines at all. The hyena’s closest relatives are the viverrids (binturongs and civets) and they actually are much more closely related to cats than to dogs!

On your next visit to the Zoo, please come by to visit Turbo and Zephyr enjoying their new home and gain an appreciation for these unique African predators. Try to stop by early in the day when they are most active, and you may even catch them vocalizing, too! Hear one of them below…

Todd Speis is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, A New Snow Leopard Beau

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