*This article was a collaborative effort between myself and Katie Adams, an ecological scientist and field guide.
There have been many viewpoints written about the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), from both sides of the story. They have been painted with broad brushstrokes as the villainous, thieving scavengers of the African bush on one hand and on the other, highly intelligent, cohesive and beautiful animals. Yet … in a world of pure survival, where the weak falls and the strong flourish, there are none better suited than that of the hyena. They’re animals with such unique traits, and it would be easy to wax lyrical about all they are capable of due to their morphological traits, unified social structure and charismatic behaviours, yet they often get pushed aside in favour of nearly every other predator despite being iconic of African wildlife.
As humans we like to categorise things, put them into boxes so to speak. So, when the spotted hyena was inducted into the hall of fame as one of the “Ugly 5”, this may have been a time to pause and question whether or not this has been beneficial to the hyena, or in actual fact detrimental? Not everybody who visits Africa would think to question this statement and so the legend pervades far and wide. As conservationists we understand more than we ever have, yet how do w