IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


28th June, 2023 Environment

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  • Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour (MPI-AB) studied hyena societies for more than 30 years.
  • The study was published in a special issue on inequality in human and animal societies in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B.
  • It was observed that in hyena monarchies power to control is derived from their mothers and goes for a downward slope with the passage of time.

Other Details

  • Hereditary power is considered as a stepping stone to absolute control, and in animals this absolute control is generally exercised though diplomacy or cruelty.
  • It decides the level of respect, access to food, time to nurture babies and overall quality of life
  • In hyena monarchies it is known as maternal inheritance where Hyena clans are arranged in a linear dominance hierarchy.
  • Queen is the highest-ranked female followed by her young, and then comes all other females with their young.
  • Individuals’ social position fades, except queen, over time in hyenas.
  • They can move up in the ladder however instances of sliding down are more often.

Cause of downward trajectory

  • Main reason is demographic turnover where another hyena joins or leaves the existing group.
  • Joining and leaving happen mainly by way of birth and death.
  • It is to be noted that higher-ranking females also give birth to more offspring and they are added to the top of the hierarchy initially.
  • This phenomenon pushes all other individuals down over time.


  • These are the least diverse of the living carnivore The four living species of hyneas are
    • Spotted hyena
    • Brown hyena
    • Aardwolf and
    • Striped hyena
  • They belong to the Hyaenidae family of Hyaena genus.
  • They are hunters and catch their prey using their teeth instead of claws.


  • They have short torsos and wolf-like massive build.
  • Forelegs are high in comparison to the hind legs.
  • They generally appear gray, brown, or yellowish.
  • They have short and thick neck.
  • Short and blunt claws force them to use teeth for hunting.
  • Spotted hyena is very capable of producing sound.
  • They live both ways that is alone or in packs.


  • Main habitats of Hyenas are dry grasslands with few trees.
  • They are found in whole of the African continent with more concentration in southern part of the continent.
  • They also have their presence in Asia eastwards through Arabia to India.


  • Some cultures associate these animals with witchcraft hence body parts are used.
  • Also in some traditional medicinal systems they are killed to obtain required body parts.
  • They attack people and even carry off young children hence they are trapped and killed by hunting or poisoning.
  • In some communities they are also killed for food.
  • They are also killed during predator control operations.
  • Decreasing natural and domestic sources of carrion affects the survival of this species.
  • Destruction of habitat due to incidents like forest fires and due to other anthropogenic activities.

Significance to Planet

  • These are a part of the mechanism whereby prey populations are kept in balance with their resources.
  • Hyenas are useful species as they clean up the environment by eating carrion. Thus help in reducing the disease burden.
  • Through digestion, they deposit concentrations of calcium back to environment.
  • They can also serve as important subject for scientific research.
  • They are an attraction for tourists

IUCN Status

  • Status of the Striped hyenas - Near Threatened
  • Status of Spotted hyena- Least Concern
  • Status of Brown hyena – Near Threatened
  • Status of Aardwolf – Least Concern


Consider the following statements about Hyenas:

1. They are significant species to maintain the balance of ecosystem and are categorized as endangered species in the IUCN red list.

2. A study on the Hyenas’ societies observes that upward mobility is impossible in Hyenas.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

A. 1 only

B. 2 only

C. Both 1 and 2

D. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: (D)