Looking Nature in the Mouth
Spotted hyenas seem to be the perfect archetypes of dirty scavengers. They’re smelly, not quite so charismatic as the big cats they compete with, and, most importantly, have bone-crunching jaws capable of dismantling most any carcass left to rot among the African grasslands. In the impression of savanna dominance that persists in many of our imaginations, lions are regal predators while hyenas are a dedicated clean-up crew, assisting the economy of nature by horfing down pungent gore. This is not at all true.
While these carnivores feed on carrion when they can, long-term studies of spotted hyena populations have shown that they hardly rely on kills made by other carnivores. Scavenging accounted for about 33% of the diet of the Serengeti’s