Without a doubt one of the strangest wildlife experiences to be had anywhere in the world, is attending a Hyena-feeding ritual in Ethiopia – something conducted nightly in the outskirts of the walled city of Harar. Apparently, feeding of the hyenas was started there many years ago by the town residents, in a bid to try to stop the formidable predators from taking their goats and other livestock.
Spotted hyenas have the strongest jaws in the mammal kingdom, so being surrounded by up to 60 of them during one of these rituals, is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone.
During my last trip to Ethiopia, I was sent to see what the fuss was all about. Shortly after dark, we were driven to an empty plot between very ordinary looking suburban homes with little gardens surrounded by low wire fences. The sole source of light emanated from the beams of the vehicle, which had been parked on the edge of the plot, positioned so that the lights shone onto the ‘hyena-man’, who, equipped with a large basket of raw meat scraps, sat on the ground plaintively calling for the hyenas. For about 10 minutes, we waited with our guide, in anxious anticipation, but there was no sign of the hyenas.
Then suddenly, there they were. Appearing silently like ghosts in the dark, moonless night, hyenas arrived in droves, taking meat from the ‘hyena- man’, who was feeding them not only by hand, but incredibly, also by mouth!
The hyenas didn’t seem remotely interested in those of us watching this bizarre spectacle, though one of the juveniles did come up to us and sniffed my jeans, much as any domestic dog may do. We remained frozen and transfixed. I wondered what may have happened, if say for instance, someone had lost their nerve…
After about 30 minutes, the meat supply had been exhausted, and as silently as they had arrived, the hyenas melted back into the night.
What is your weirdest wildlife experience?