Striped Hyenas Are Disappearing
January 26, 2018
NRDC – In parts of the Middle East, some Arab cultures believe that striped hyenas are grave robbers. Others contend that a striped hyena can put a spell on people before dragging them back to a cave and eating them alive.
“I had a Bedouin guy swear he was enchanted by a hyena and that his friend saved him by slapping him on the head at the last moment,” says Jonathan Tichon, a Ph.D. student in BGU’s Conservation and Ecological Genetics Lab, who recently performed camera-trap studies on striped hyenas.
His lab is part of the Marco and Louise Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology in the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research.
All of this bad public relations can have real-world consequences. There are several videos online of people abusing striped hyenas, with wire muzzles, repeated kicking, boulders — not the type of stuff you want to see.
In their defense, Tichon points out that he thinks the animals are quite lovely and undeserving of their negative reputation.
In addition, because stripped hyenas are thought to be “touched by the devil,” their body parts are sometimes sought for healing and for boosting potency. “Dried penis of striped hyena is being used as a lucky charm,” says Tichon. “It’s supposed to give you man-powers or something ― I don’t know.”
What’s more, striped hyena skins and especially brains are also worth money on the black market.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the species is “near threatened.” From India and the Middle East to southeast Africa, there may be fewer than 10,000 of the animals left, and that number is said to be decreasing.
Tichon says run-ins with vehicles may now be the leading cause of death for the striped hyena in Israel.