The Striped Hyena

Hyaena Hyaena

The Striped Hyaena is native to India, and related to its spotted African cousin. Demonised by a series of bizarre superstitions, particularly in Rajasthan, the reality is that it’s a highly evolved and extremely intelligent creature, which is little studied and thoroughly misunderstood.

It has a distinct and rather ungainly appearance. It’s forelegs are much longer than its hind legs, and it has a “mane” that runs down its spine, which only adds its notoriety as the “witch’s steed” among the tribes and rural folk in western Rajasthan.

One of our favourite places to observe it in its natural habitat is in Velavadar in Gujarat or Siana in Rajasthan.

This open grassland is full of small rodents that form its prey base. That’s right, this Hyaena is not just a scavenger, it’s an omnivore.

It hunts for itself and will even prey on sheep and cattle in neighbouring villages, but is equally likely to forage for gourds or melons. If you come across a Hyaena’s den, chances are that you’ll find a little pile of sculls and bones, but the fact is that they are the “housekeepers” of the wild, removing carcasses and carrion from the forest floor.

Hyaenas hunt stealthily under the cover of darkness. In the winter months, the cloudless skies and cool climate of Gujarat and Rajasthan make it ideal to observe these creatures at work.

Encounters Asia’s trackers and naturalists keep a close eye on their habits and movements, so that you can hone in on exactly where they are going to be.

In the Kutch region of Gujarat, they lie at the top of the food chain and have no natural predator.

Therefore they multiply uninhibited, but its interesting to observe that they raise their young in “community dens” where you’re likely to find more than one mother and her cubs.