Pilanesberg National Park and neighboring areas, Northwest Province, South Africa — Despite their traditional bad reputation, brown hyaenas are actually social mammals that live in tight-knit clans, where members will even help suckle each other's young. Like other carnivores and large scavengers, brown hyaenas are suffering from shrinking habitats and conflict with humans. The land around protected areas is being increasingly developed, and hyaenas that venture into neighboring farmland and game ranches are at risk of being poisoned, trapped, or hunted down as pests. Finding a way to live peacefully on land outside of parks may be the only means of survival for the fewer than 1,700 brown hyaenas living in South Africa.
Any attempts to improve the situation for hyaenas and other carnivores will depend upon a thorough understanding of the regions they inhabit, how they interact with other predators and scavengers, and especially what roles they play within ecosystems. A balance in the scavenger community is essential for a healthy ecosystem. Just as some scavengers may begin to succumb to the pressures of human presence, others may be more successful in adapting—so assessing them in one project will provide critical data for future overall conservation efforts.
You can help researchers Dr. Dawn Scott, Dr. Richard Yarnell, Dr. Anja Rott, and Lynne MacTavish assess the conservation value of areas with different levels of protection for brown hyaenas by seeing how they and other carnivores and scavengers thrive—or fail to thrive—in this rich landscape that combines protected areas and unprotected zones.
Meet the Scientists
Dr. Dawn Scott
University of Brighton
Dr Dawn Scott is a Principal Lecturer in Ecology at the University of Brighton. She holds a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Durham and earned her Ph.D. researching desert rodents in Jordan. Dr. Scott has more than 10 years of experience in academic research with expertise in mammal ecology, biodiversity and behavior, and has undertaken several field research projects investigating human-wildlife conflict in Jordan, Chile, Zambia, South Africa, Indonesia and the UK. Her recent research projects have included looking at the impacts of human changes to habitats and landscapes on species populations, human-carnivore conflict and how molecular ecology can be used to in informing conservation biology and management.
Dr. Richard Yarnell
Nottingham Trent University
Dr Richard Yarnell is a Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. He holds a degree in Zoology from the University of Aberdeen and a Master’s in Ecology from the University of Wales, Bangor. He earned his Ph.D. researching the effects of game ranch management on small mammal populations, in collaboration with the University of Brighton and the University of Pretoria. Dr. Yarnell’s experience includes research on the impact of habitat management on mammal ecology, cooperative breeding in meerkats in South Africa, and hyaena numbers in Northwest Province, all in South Africa, as well as a project investigating badger and fox populations in relation to pest management for the UK government. He has also served as Chief Executive of the Badger Trust in the UK. He is particularly interested in the conservation of carnivores and in human–wildlife conflict.
Mankwe Wildlife Reserve
Lynne MacTavish has been Operations Manager at Mankwe Wildlife Reserve since 1999. She has a Diploma in Tourism and has worked in the tourist industry for nearly 20 years. She also runs her own catering business. She is an experienced Level 3 Field Guide with the South African Field Guide Association and is also qualified in First Aid. She was the recipient of the UBS African Scientists Programme fellowship award for training in Principal Investigator responsibilities, scientific training, and support. She will be in charge of all the logistical management and arrangements during the expedition.
Dr. Anja Rott
University of Brighton
Dr. Anja Rott is a senior lecturer in ecology at the University of Brighton. She holds a degree in biology from the University of Bayreuth, Germany and earned her Ph.D. researching parasitoid food webs at Imperial College. She is a fellow of the Royal Entomological Society and a member of the British Ecological Society and Entomological Society of America. She also holds a postgraduate teaching qualification. Dr. Rott has more than fifteen years of experience in academic research with expertise in community, population and chemical ecology, as well as entomological ecology (namely in multi-trophic insect plant interactions, pollination ecology, and dung beetle ecology). She has conducted fieldwork in South Africa, India, and Europe.