No-Man’s-Land for Hyenas

Aboker war

Photo from video courtesy of Fredi Devas

Recall the last time I was in Harar, the Aboker hyenas were staging raids on the Sofi feeding place and all but driving the Sofi hyenas off for good. Well, the conflict is apparently ongoing because Abbas is no longer feeding the Sofi hyenas at the regular place; he’s taking food to the garbage dump and feeding them there while trying to coax them back to the shrine where they used to feed. They follow him some of the way but then lose their nerve and return to the dump. This says to me that the Sofi hyenas are too afraid to go back to the place that used to be a core area of their territory, and this is out of fear of Aboker raids. This is a valid fear as quite a few Sofi hyenas have been injured or killed in previous clan wars with the Aboker hyenas.

In the image above, you see two groups of hyenas facing off on either side of a building opposite Harar’s slaughter yards. This is from footage of a clan war that a BBC producer filmed while he was there a few months ago. It’s amazing footage of a rare event and he was right in the middle of it. In fact one hyena knocked his camera lens in all the kerfuffle. And there are many more hyenas on either side who don’t appear in the image; no less than 38 in the group on the left and 37 in the group on the right. Seventy-five hyenas in a clan war in the middle of a city and people walking past as if it’s none of their business! As for the building, it is (or was) right in the heart of Aboker territory; less than 10 metres to the right is where the other hyena man feeds the Aboker hyenas. And this is what makes it all so intriguing.

By comparing spot patterns on the hyenas in the clan war footage with some appearing in my old Harar footage I’m pretty sure that the group on the right is the Aboker clan. As for the group on the left, I’m not so certain. It could well be the Sofi hyenas even though they’re approaching from the west and the Sofi territory is east. This is because there are only two approaches to this place from the east and the easiest one takes you along a road past the Old Town and loops around so you end up entering the feeding place from the west. The thing is, I don’t recognise any of those hyenas in the group to the left – not one. But then again, I’ve been away a while and many may well have come and gone so I can’t be certain they aren’t Sofi hyenas. Still, the BBC producer said that Koti was still feeding at the time he was there and she’s not among these hyenas, but as the dominant female, she really should be.

So here’s my hypothesis: the group to the left is not the Sofi clan but instead another hyena clan from the west or even the Hakim clan from the southwest. The group to the right is the Aboker clan whose territory has contracted to the corner of that building right next to their feeding place. The contraction of their territory on that side is either the reason for why they are putting pressure on the southeastern border with the Sofi clan, or else it is the result of them dedicating too much effort on expanding their southeastern border to the detriment of the Sofi hyenas. If I’m wrong and it’s the Sofi clan in the footage putting pressure on the Aboker hyenas it means that the Sofi clan has taken possession of Harar’s Old town and expanded their territory right up to the Aboker feeding place. Which would make their behaviour at their own feeding place a little weird. Based on the map below showing the geographic relationship between the two clans, can you think of another explanation for what’s going on here?

Harar Map and Clan War

Map of Harar’s Old Town and Sofi (red) and Aboker (green) territories as they were in 2011.

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2 thoughts on “No-Man’s-Land for Hyenas

  1. Delighted to have more news of the Harar hyenas. I hope they aren’t suffering too much from people pressure; apparently the human population in Ethiopia is increasing even more appallingly than in most places.
    What were the BBC doing there? Will there be a film? I don’t live in the UK and don’t have a TV, so depend on the Internet for news of things like this.

    • Nice to hear from you again Sash. Yes, they’re including Harar’s hyenas in an episode (or part of an episode) of the One Planet series. Not sure if you’ll get to see it on the net but I’ll let you know when it comes out. Cheers

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