BIT

Back in Harar now and I’ve noticed a few changes. The gate on the north side of town (Assumberi) has been partly dismantled so that it can be restored, there are new cobblestones in some of the laneways, the price of eggs has risen, and boy is Willi fat! Actually this is interesting because Willi is quite a low ranking hyena. In a place like the Serengeti, Willi would get a lot of harassment from other hyenas at kills so that his growth rate would be pretty slow compared to a high ranking hyena simply because of limited access to food. The difference in Harar is that rank is not as important as tameness and Willi, being least afraid of people, is always at the front of the queue when Yusuf or his son is handing out the food. So, when I arrived at the shrine last night, I almost didn’t recognise this big lump of a hyena, lying with his nose on his paws looking disgruntled for some reason.
Hyenas are really inscrutable. I went straight up to Willi and sat down beside him and he just stared straight ahead. Definitely he recognised me, because if ever a person walks towards him like that, he usually gets up and scuttles out of the way. But all he did was rotate his ears when I spoke to him and then made eye contact just the once when he turned to face the sound of some hyenas squabbling. This is hyena through and through; they don’t connect with you the same way that primates and domesticated animals do. But they do connect. I guess it’s what he didn’t do that constituted the connection. He didn’t get up and run away – he wasn’t worried about me being close. He didn’t look at me – wasn’t concerned about what I was doing. He also refrained from biting me, but I don’t think he’s over that just yet. In fact Yusuf’s son, Abbas, showed me a scar on his neck from where Willi bit him one night while he was feeding. Sounds a bit like hyena-attention-seeking behaviour to me. But I also feel pretty guilty because I’ve indulged him so much. I remembered all those times that I let him bite me and my camera gear and my shoes and so forth. So I reprimanded him last night for his indiscretion and told him to work on his self control, but as always it seemed to go in one, backwards facing ear and out the other, forwards facing ear without being taken on board. This is hyena.

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2 thoughts on “BIT

  1. I’m glad you are back in Harar, I’ve been missing reading this blog and your descriptions of hyenas’ behavior. Are you staying?
    Please post pictures of fat-boy Willi if you have a chance 🙂

    • Yup, it’s good to be back. Should be here for at least another month and I’ll be paying lots of visits to the hyenas while I’m here. Stay tuned for news of another hyena who wants to cross the species divide. It’s a big female this time and she’s bloody scary. Video of Willi and Yusuf will be posted soon.

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