• They whoop, rumble, low, and laugh, when they are excited or on sensing danger.
  • But not so much in the last few years when hyenas are rarely heard.
  • Hyenas have almost vanished in to thin air.
  • Not much loved, the striped hyenas or Hyaena hyaena of India are staring at an uncertain future.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorised it as ‘Near Threatened’ species on a global scale.
  • After a gap of five years, the largest-ever range mapping and assessment of the hyenas is being done by IUCN involving several regional partners.
  • To create the latest range maps on the species distribution in the Eastern Ghats region, the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS) is assisting IUCN Hyaena Specialist Group as a local collaborator.
  • The process of range mapping is unique as people people from across Eastern Ghats belt can report sightings of the species.
  • A mammal of the Carnivora order and Hyaenidae family, hyenas, like wild dogs, are top predators that compete with other species in the unforgiving landscapes of India, Central Asia, North and East Africa and West Asia.
  • Till about two decades ago, the striped hyenas were a common sight in the wild and semi-arid lands.
  • Today, its numbers are likely to be around 5,000 globally, a drop from about 14,000 not too long ago.
  • Their population has taken a severe beating.
  • Apart from habitat destruction, retaliatory killings due to popular beliefs and conflicts with other aggressive species like the jackal are some the reasons behind their current status
  • Often misunderstood and viewed as dangerous or destructive, hyenas are poisoned or captured forpreying on livestock.
  • With the populations of other large carnivores declining, so does the food they leave behind that striped hyenas scavenge.
  • We are using an app called iNaturalist to get information on hyena-ecology, conservation and human-interactions from several locations.
  • IUCN assessments are important as they determine the status of species, ascertain risks and identify priority locations for conservation.
  • The Indira Gandhi Zoological Park shot to fame when a striped hyena cub was born and survived its hostile mother in 2017
  • While experts generally prefer long-term measures such as conservation of the natural habitat, modern techniques such as captive breeding have in the past saved animal and bird species across the globe from near-extinction. For instance, China’s Pere David’s deer or the pink pigeon of Mauritius.
  • The hotspots of striped hyena in the region are Srikakulam, Parvathipuram forest area, Chodavaram and Devarapalle.