Local tolerance of hyena attacks in east Hararge region, Ethiopia

Marcus Baynes-Rock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Spotted hyenas and humans often come into conflict where they coexist in the landscape. Usually the conflicts involve hyena predation on livestock and retaliatory killings by humans; however, direct attacks on humans by rabid or otherwise healthy hyenas do occur. These in turn compound the problems associated with reconciling protection of hyenas with the needs and safety of humans. This paper was motivated by a series of attacks which occurred in the town of Kombolcha in the Hararge Region of eastern Ethiopia. The attacks and the responses of the local people were an extension of a wider conflict across the region where children are occasionally attacked and hyenas killed. Yet hyenas persist in the region. I suggest here that an understanding of the mechanisms which permit hyenas to coexist with humans in the Hararge region extend beyond food availability and access to breeding sites for hyenas. There is an added dimension which stems from the remnants of a traditional belief system that the local people held prior to conversion to Islam. This entails that hyenas are conceived of as beneficial to the human population due to their propensity to kill and consume unseen spirits, and their capacity to act in accordance with human societal values. As long as the human population does not transgress any boundaries, the hyenas will not have cause to attack them. Meanwhile the hyenas need to restrict their activity times, rely entirely on anthropogenic foods, and refrain from preying on people and livestock. These kinds of detailed explorations of ethno-historical and socio-ecological aspects of human-animal relations can better inform efforts at mitigating human-wildlife conflict in Hararge region and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-433
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitudes
  • Religious syncretism
  • Spotted hyenas
  • Wildlife conflict
  • Co-existence


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