Do hyenas eat humans?

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Spotted hyena

There’s a story on the Internet which answers the question in the title: ‘Hyenas devour man in attack at his home’. Yes, hyenas do sometimes eat humans.

In this instance, in Zimbabwe, officials are hunting a pack of man-eating hyenas. They dragged a 46-year-old man from his bedroom and tore him to pieces.

Neighbours found the limbs and head of Tendai Maseka near his home in the countryside. There were hyena paw prints surrounding the remains. At his home, his blood was splattered over the walls and there were clear signs that the hyenas had been inside. He was last seen alive on Monday leaving a bar.

Spotted hyena

Spotted hyena. YouTube screenshot.

An official from the National wildlife authority, Tinashe Farawo said, “He was dragged from his bedroom and devoured by the hyenas”. Residents are unnerved and have been told to stay inside after dusk and to keep all doors and windows shut. The pack of hyenas are being tracked.

Often spotted hyenas are scavengers eating the leftover remains of the victims of predators but they are also hunters. Sometimes children are targeted but attacks on adult humans are rare and going inside a home and killing an adult human there is even rarer.

The locals say that a pack of six hyenas have become bold and audacious when visiting the victim’s village of Banure where they have attacked and taken cows and goats.

I think I’ve answered the question in the title.

Spotted hyena

Another name for this species is the laughing hyena. It is native to sub-Saharan Africa (Africa to the south of the Saharan desert). It is believed that their population size is up to 47,000. Numbers are declining outside protected areas because of habitat loss and poaching. It is the only mammalian species to lack an external vaginal opening. The female has a pseudo-penis.

In terms of species classification, this animal is the most social of the Carnivora and has the largest group sizes and most complex social behaviours. It is regarded as a successful animal because of its adaptability and opportunism. Although it does scavenge, as mentioned, it is primarily a hunter. It makes efficient use of animal matter. It is flexible in its hunting more so than other African carnivores.

It can hunt alone, in small parties of 2 to 5 individuals, or in large groups. They often chase prey over long distances of several kilometres at speeds of up to 60 km/h. They have a long history of interactions with people. I’ve seen them as pets of what appear to be rather aggressive male humans perhaps because the hyena looks very aggressive and dangerous.