Field data were collected and analysed on the feeding and spatial ecology of brown hyaenas living in the Makgadikgadi National Park and in an adjacent Wildlife Management Area where local subsistence pastoralists live. The responses of the pastoralists to a questionnaire designed to document their perceptions of and attitudes towards brown hyaenas and other carnivores that live in the vicinity of their residences, were also analysed. Brown hyaenas living in the Makgadikgadi National Park have different diets from hyaenas living in the vicinity of pastoralists. In pastoralist areas livestock carcasses were the most important food source and other less important food types were fed on as they became seasonally available. In the Makgadikgadi National Park zebra was the most important food source although several other food types were seasonally important. In the pastoralist areas dietary breadth was similar over the lean and the peak seasons, while in the Makgadikgadi National Park, when food availability was low in the lean season, the brown hyaenas increased their dietary breadth and fed off a greater number of species of food. In the lean season they also changed their foraging behaviour. There was no evidence to suggest that any livestock species were hunted by the brown hyaenas as springhares and Cape hares were the only mammals observed to be hunted, and only occasionally. Home range sizes were smaller for brown hyaenas living in the vicinity of pastoralists than for hyaenas living in the Makgadikgadi National Park. The size of the home range was found to be dependent on the average distance between the significant food sources. In the Makgadikgadi National Park the seasonal home range size fluctuated greatly due to the variability of seasonal food available, while in the pastoralist areas food availability was less varied and as a consequence seasonal home range size varied less than in the national park. Although pastoralists believed that black-backed jackals killed the most number of individual livestock animals, lions had the greatest perceived negative economic impact, followed by black-backed jackals, spotted hyaena and then brown hyaena. Wild dog, caracal, cheetah and leopard were also believed to have killed a small number of livestock animals. The general understanding of the brown hyaena is that it is a predator that survived by feeding on hunted livestock. As a consequence of this they were hated and frequently killed by the farmers. In spite of their persecution the brown hyaena populations are viable in the cattle areas and appear not to be under any immediate threat. However, efforts to reduce the number of brown hyaenas killed in the long-term would be beneficial in ensuring that brown hyaena populations in cattle areas remain viable.
Dissertation (MSc (Zoology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.