Wild You Were Sleeping Episode 6: Meet The Unsung Carnivore, The Striped Hyena

Striped Hyenas, found in the Deccan Plateau, are one of the least known mammals in India.

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The Deccan Plateau, the largest geographic region of India, covers more than 43% of its landmass. The Deccan Plateau is a vast landscape comprising dry grasslands, savannas, scrublands and rocky outcrops and is home to a wide variety of species that thrive in this region. Despite the remarkable biodiversity, the region is mostly overlooked due to its non-forested habitat. Grasslands are one of the most widespread and important natural systems in the Indian subcontinent that play an important role in carbon sequestration as well as water recycling. All the species living in grasslands contribute to this fine balancing of roles. Charismatic species such as the Indian Gray Wolf, blackbuck, leopard and chinkara live in this habitat. Along with these, a less popular but an equally important species inhabits these grasslands, the Striped Hyena.


Striped Hyenas are one of the least known mammals in India. This large carnivore, despite being widespread in its distribution, has been rarely studied. Not much is known about its ecology, behavior, or even its population status. What we do know is that it ranges from the west and north Africa to the Middle-East and much of the Indian Subcontinent. The Striped Hyena is a resident of the dry grasslands, scrub and rocky habitats. This adaptable species can survive in protected natural systems as well as human-modified landscapes. Many times this species inhabits the periphery of cities and the agricultural landscape. Any region with suitable feeding and denning sites can potentially allow it to sustain in that habitat. Despite its adaptive nature, the global population is estimated to be less than 10,000 individuals and hence IUCN classifies the Striped Hyena as a Near Threatened Species.


Unlike their better-known African cousin, the Spotted Hyena, the Striped Hyena is rather shy and solitary. They are largely nocturnal scavengers and can clean up carcasses including large bones easily. With an exceptionally strong digestive system, they can digest any decaying meat which other carnivores cannot generally consume, thereby making them one of the most important species to keep ecosystems clean and disease-free.

The Striped Hyenas share their habitat with many other large carnivores outside protected areas. The scavenging nature and general competition from other predators push these hyenas closer to human habitation where food is more easily available. Today the hyenas are increasingly dependent on poultry waste that is dumped outside villages and cities. Though an easy source of food, this brings them closer to another competing species, the feral dogs. Feral dogs not just compete for scavenging, but pose other threats to the hyenas such as the spread of diseases, direct attacks and potential killing of cubs at den sites.


Living close to human habitation comes with many costs. Due to the scavenging behavior and how they look and sound, the hyenas are misunderstood and often vilified. Farmers and shepherds often block their den sites to remove them from the region. The occasional livestock depredation also invokes retaliation from cattle herders at times. Most importantly, the expansion of cities and agriculture has been reducing their natural habitat drastically.

Conservation of hyenas depends on the protection of their habitats and a general understanding of the species by the people who share the same landscape with them. An effective conservation plan can only exist after knowing this species better in all aspects of its ecology and behavior. Perhaps a global recognition of the beauty, importance and uniqueness of Striped hyenas is a first step towards its conservation.

The Habitats Trust and Trippintoe Productions present the story of these Striped Hyenas and the people who study them through an episode in their docuseries “Wild You Were Sleeping”. Hoping to elicit empathy and awareness among the general public, the series tries to bring people closer to the nature around them. Catch the episode on the Striped Hyena here.

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Topics:  rare species   Striped Hyena 

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