Hyenas of Ethiopia provide a public health service when scavenging livestock carcasses

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Spotted hyena

MEKELLE, ETHIOPIA-NEWS AND COMMENT: The hyena is looked down upon as an ugly creature feeding off putrefied flesh. They are known for their scavenging abilities which is proving to be a health benefit in Ethiopia. They should not be denigrated. Researchers found out that an individual hyena scavenges around 2,100 lbs of carcass waste annually.

They further calculated that this removal of disease-spreading carcasses prevents five infections of anthrax and bovine tuberculosis in the local population every year as well as 140 infections in cattle, sheep and goats. Converting this health benefit into money they say it saves an estimated US$52,000, the equivalent of £38,000 in treatment costs and livestock losses.

Spotted hyena

Spotted hyena. YouTube screenshot.

The senior author of the report published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, Dr. Neil Carter, of the University of Michigan, said:

“This is an important contribution to a growing body of work that highlights the benefits of predators and scavengers, rather than focusing only on their costs to humanity.”

The co-author of the study, Chinmay Sonawane, said:

“Losing even a single cow to anthrax or bovine tuberculosis can cause significant financial stress to cattle owners in Ethiopia.”

They both agreed that the benefits of the presence of the hyena in Ethiopia must be weighed against the costs. They appear to be hinting that the benefits outweigh the costs. An earlier study reported 10 non-fatal hyena attacks on people per year in Mekelle. In addition, there were 33 fatal attacks on cattle and other small livestock with an estimated financial loss of US$3,000.

My thanks to The Times newspaper (hard copy) today Oct 11, 2021.

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