Not fun becoming a hyena mother

This past week I had the privilege of viewing this Spotted Hyena (Crocuta Crocuta) feeding off the scraps dropped by a leopard on its impala kill in a Marula tree. This specific hyena was very slow, disorientated and had visible scars from a previous encounter. Thinking about the pain that animal must have gone through, my mind was drawn to the birthing process in hyenas. Female hyenas have what is known as a pseudopenis, which is an elongated clitoris that visually represents a penis. Hyenas are the only mammals in the world to lack an external vagina opening. It’s these characteristics that make giving birth an extremely complicated and painful process. The opening of the clitoris is 2.2cm wide while the width of the foetus is 6-7cm, this means that the female’s first birth will result in the clitoris tearing. Females giving birth for the first time die in 9-18% of the cases and their cubs only survive in 25% of the cases. The birthing process itself can last up to 48 hours of excruciating pain. An experienced female can give birth more easily because the tear on her clitoris never fully heals creating more space for the foetus to pass through. The pain that female hyenas must go through to give birth coupled with the extreme difficulty of copulation, can only make us wonder how determined hyenas are to ensure the future of many more generations to come. The many complications and things that can go wrong means that it is a rare and unbelievable occasion to view hyena cubs in the wild, and one that we wish many people could witness.

Report by Josh