Sometimes it’s hard to recognise hyenas at a glance. Dibbey and Funyamurey are about the same size as each other and share similar notches in their right ears so my usual method of differentiating is useless. There are other ways, though, and behaviour is usually a good guide. For example, if the individual comes charging in , and the other hyenas scatter, you can be pretty sure it’s Dibbey. Or if it goes and lies down in the drive and grumbles, it’s Funyamurey. And you can confirm which one it is when they come closer and you can see the nose; Funyamurey in Oromo means ‘cut nose’ and this is exactly what she has.
But there’s no such problem with the hyena pictured above; known locally as Bajaj, which is cute if you happen to know what a Bajaj is (see pic below). She’s usually to be found feeding and hanging around at Police Meda, which is where the Assumberi clan come to rummage through the garbage containers and to get scraps from one of the butcher shops. But she has different den site to the rest of the clan and my guess is that the rest of the clan’s dens are just too far away for a three legged hyena to travel. The same applies to where the Assumberi clan are fed for tourists which is a couple of kms away. But while she might be short on endurance she can put on a pretty good burst of speed and I’ve watched her racing along at 30kms per hour. She can also scamper up and down the side of a river bank with none of the difficulties experienced by an anthropologist in search of a camera lens. So I found Bajaj this morning looking a little forlorn probably because again the butcher shop was closed and there were no other hyenas around for company. She posed for a few shots and then headed for home via the river bed.

I’m still trying to decide if life for a three legged hyena is easier in an urban environment than in a ‘wild’ place such as Serengeti. The advantage of living close to humans is that there are food scraps, but then there are also dogs to contend with. And while the butcher shop is open there is plenty of food to be had, but lately the shop has been closed so Bajaj must often go home with an empty stomach. In the Serengeti there are other hyenas that can hunt game so Bajaj would simply have to wait for a kill and then join in on the feeding. Usually higher ranking hyenas get first choice at the food but there’s nothing to say that Bajaj isn’t a high ranking hyena. I’ve seen her drive off four legged ones just by opening her mouth and putting up her tail. I guess in the wild, it would all depend on rank, but in an urban environment it would depend on the amount of human produced food.

A Harar taxi, known locally under the name of the Indian company that manufactures them: Bajaj


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