I just heard from the hyena-man’s daughter, Ardalle, that she graduated from college this week with a nursing degree. I have to say I’m so proud of her. I remember my time with the family and seeing how difficult it was for the kids to succeed in school. For a start their parents can barely read and write so they had no-one to help with their homework (other than a stupid anthropologist). And the resources available to them were so limited. Books for kids are unheard of in Ethiopia and families have to pay for paper and pens for their kids. Most parents don’t prioritize these things so kids often don’t even have materials to do their homework. Ardalle is diligent and I remember her always doing homework, but she is also fortunate in that her father sent her to a good school and provided her with the paper and pens she needed. And this is where the hyenas played a crucial role. They showed up night after night to feed in front of tourists who paid the hyena man who had the wisdom to see how that income could be put to good use. And now thanks to these hyenas the cycle of ignorance and child marriage in Ethiopia is ever weaker and there is one more educated, independent woman in the world.
This weekend the clan and I are moving house so it’s an apt time to move this blog. The new site is called Among Animals, giving me scope to expand the subject matter. Fear not, I’ll still be writing about my dear hyenas but now I can include a host of other creatures who would have struggled to find relevance in a site about hyenas in Harar. The new site is here and I hope you enjoy it.
It’s a happy day for me today as my book on Harar’s hyenas is finally out. Penn State University Press were originally going to publish a revised version of my dissertation – all academic reading, and dry enough to kill mould – but then they had a meeting. They decided that the subject deserved a more accessible book for a general audience and asked me if I could come up with an entirely new manuscript. Two years and many long days/nights of writing later and Among the Bone Eaters is out. I’m very excited about this book and not just because I put so much work into it. It also gave me a chance to revisit my time in Harar and foreground the human and hyena characters, much as I’ve done here. I was also fortunate that Elizabeth Marshall Thomas agreed to write a foreword which for me is an honour beyond measure. And Suzanne Wolk, Nigel Rothfels, and Kendra Boileau provided the best guidance imaginable for which I’m forever grateful.
If you’re familiar with this blog and come to read my book I should explain some inconsistencies with hyenas’ named used. The hyena known here as Jalla is named in the book as Kamareya. The reason for this difference is that Yusuf the hyena man and his son Abbas often gave the same hyenas different names. Abbas called this hyena Jalla while Yusuf called him Kamareeya. I prefer the latter because, as I found out, it means ‘Like the Moon.’ I’ve also spelled Bebe in the book as Baby because this is closer to the correct pronunciation. Deraltu is named in the book as Koti and the young hyena named here as Burisee retains her original name, Fintamurey. This hyena was also called Rimbaud (after French poet Arthur Rimbaud) but that’s a whole other story. Apart from that pretty much everything is as accurate as is my memory. Ahem.
There’s an idiom in Harar which is waraba nasib (hyenas’ luck) and there’s a bit of that flying around this blog at the moment. That’s because right now you can get 30 percent off on a copy of Among the Bone Eaters if you use this order form. I hope you find the inclination to get a copy of this book, whether directly or through your library, and if you enjoy it or not please let me know.
My spies in Belgium just informed me that a documentary about Harar’s hyenas is screening on Arte Belgique tonight at 7pm (thanks Sash). So if you have access to Belgian TV you can see a nicely made doco directed by Maurice Dubroca, featuring Yusuf and the dear Sofi hyenas. The producer Christophe really worked hard to get this doco made and is really passionate about the hyenas’ stories so congrats to him for getting this film to air when so many networks are afraid that people will switch off when it comes to hyenas.
Here’s the page about the documentary and here’s the link to the programme schedule. I love the mention of ‘un pacte de non-agression avec les hyènes.’ Hopefully it will be released for online viewing so those few of us living outside Belgium might have a chance to see. And being on the Arte network it should screen in France at some stage too.
As you know from the previous post, the BBC were recently in Harar filming the hyenas for the One Planet series. In addition to the three way clan war and the goings on at the Sofi feeding place (which is now halfway to the garbage dump), the producer noticed some interesting things at the main market. One was this old clapped out female who went nightly to the main market looking for food. Apparently all the Aboker hyenas deferred to her as if she was the queen of the hyenas but she was never once at the Aboker feeding place. I doubt she was foregoing the feeding place in favour of the market because the feeding kicks off at 6pm while the hyenas don’t normally hit the market until about 10pm due to the crowds. So I wish I could find out more about this hyena-queen. The other bit of information, and this is even more fascinating, is that the producer thinks that a hyena had some cubs in a niche inside the Old Town. He saw the female entering the niche and on passing by, he heard what he thought was cubs, but didn’t stop to look because he didn’t want to draw attention to the place – for obvious reasons. This is really interesting because crowds of people pass by that spot daily, and some throw rubbish into the niche, so it would take a lot of nerve for a hyena and her cubs to stay there. I’m guessing/hoping that by now that they’ve moved house and established a den outside the town where the other Abokers have theirs. Otherwise you can add to the permanent population of Harar, one female hyena and her cubs living in a magical hole where food flies in through the entrance daily.
An ideal place to raise hyenas
Don’t even think about it