South Africa’s Hyenas

Wildlife & Ecosystems

South Africa's Hyenas

How can we improve the odds for brown hyenas and other carnivores in South Africa’s Pilanesberg National Park?

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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Natural scavengers are essential, but their role in maintaining ecosystems and biodiversity and reducing disease is little understood.

To protect South Africa’s scavenger species, we need to understand their value and the risks they face.

Natural scavengers are essential to the functioning of their ecosystems, but their role in maintaining ecosystems and biodiversity and reducing disease is little understood. People tend to regard them with disdain and to subject them to treatment leading to population declines. The loss of these species could have serious consequences. This project aims to determine the role and importance of scavengers in human-dominated areas, to ensure that people recognize their importance, and to aid their long-term survival.

Only small regions of South Africa are protected, so most scavengers live in unprotected areas where they are subject to persecution. To ensure the survival of these species, we must understand the ecology of wildlife in unprotected compared with protected areas. This project focuses on brown hyenas, jackals, and dung beetles living in unprotected areas of the North West province, but it will also include other carnivores that live alongside them.

Jackal, South Africa

Conduct wildlife surveys looking for hyenas and jackals.

Fewer than 1,700 free-ranging brown hyenas remain in South Africa. Jackals also face persecution. Dung beetles play a key role in ecosystems and can indicate the health of mammal populations in an area; their diversity is closely linked with the diversity of mammal species.

About the research area

Pilanesberg National Park and Mankwe Wildlife Reserve, North West Province, South Africa, Africa

Daily life in the field


This is a summary:

The Scientists

Dr. Dawn Scott chairing at an Earthwatch Lecture

Dr. Dawn Scott speaking with Earthwatch scientists Dr. Russell Hill and Iva Kovacic.


Principal Lecturer in Ecology, University of Brighton

ABOUT Dawn Scott

Dr. Dawn Scott specializes in mammalian predator and prey ecology. She has more than ten years of research experience and expertise in mammal ecology, biodiversity, and behavior.



Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food


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