Brown Hyaena Project – Conserving a charismatic species

A brown hyaena bathing
A brown hyaena bathing

THABAZIMBI – A British student, Louisa Richmond-Coggan, has chosen to come to South Africa to live, work and study the brown hyaena.
The brown hyaena has become absolutely fascinating to Louisa, who’s currently conducting her three year Ph.D. on them, in collaboration with the University of Pretoria, over the past year. The project covers a vast area from Rustenburg and Pilanesberg National Park to Madikwe Game Reserve and the most importantly of all, the farmland in the area surrounding Thabazimbi and across the Limpopo Province.
The aim of the project is to understand the difference between the brown hyaena inside protected areas and the ones that roam free throughout the farmland of the Limpopo and Northwest Provinces. There have already been three hyaena collared using GPS collars inside Pilanesberg National Park with one soon to be put on a brown hyaena inside Madikwe Game Reserve.
The brown hyaena is an intriguing animal that is very secretive, rarely seen and scavenges 95% of its food. It is nature’s waste disposal unit getting rid of all the rotten meat and bones. The brown hyaena only hunts 5% of its food and even then is highly unsuccessful as it lacks the necessary hunting skills that other predators posses. It is listed as a protected species under the South Africa Biodiversity Act of 2004. Conserving the brown hyaena across the farmland is vitally important as less than 10% of South Africa’s land is officially designed as a protected area. There is very little known about the movements of the brown hyaena outside protected areas. This is why by putting on GPS collars, which can be tracked using the internet, Louisa will be provided with an exclusive opportunity to enhance our understanding of the species. The key to the project is getting the remaining four GPS collars on brown hyaena within the farmland. For this reason Louisa is looking for farmers who currently have or will have any metal cage traps out on their land to let her know if they catch a brown hyaena. It is very difficult to capture a brown hyaena therefore Louisa is looking for farmers to become involved and in turn be part of an extended network of traps. By contacting her with this information she would be extremely grateful as it helps her to achieve her goal of increasing the amount of scientific knowledge we currently have and in turn completing the project.
Through meeting many farmers in the area she has seen that remote digital cameras are being used as a tool to monitor the level of game stock. As part of the project Louisa is very interested in collecting any brown hyaena photographs that anyone may have captured.
The reason being is that Louisa is using a new technique to identify individuals using their front right and left leg strip pattern, so far it has proven very successful.
If anyone has any cage traps on their land or would like to know more about the project please contact Louisa on 0837579212.
Photographs can be send with contact details and the location of where they were taken to email: loulourc@hotmail.com.