Spotted Hyenas – An Indicator Species

Ended on 4/01/13
Campaign Ended
  • $545
  • 22%
  • Finished
    on 4/01/13

About This Project

Although often maligned, spotted hyenas are the most abundant large carnivore in sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, they can live in nearly every type of ecosystem and can even ingest anthrax without showing any symptoms. While they are currently doing well in the face of an increasing human population, other wildlife are not so fortunate.

Ask the Scientists

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What is the context of this research?

My research aims to see what behavioral, physiological, and demographic cues we can use from spotted hyenas to indicate how other species in the ecosystem are faring. If these cues prove to be successful indicators of future declines of other wildlife, we may be able to use this information to combat the factors causing these declines, and to assist in conserving biodiversity in sub-Saharan Africa.

What is the significance of this project?

While the impacts of a growing human population bordering the Masai Mari National Reserve have been documented on herbivores, it is unclear how endangered carnivores are faring. This research will help to elucidate the indirect, or non-lethal, effects of an expanding human population on large carnivores, and assist in their conservation. Additionally, wildlife tourism represents one of the leading sources of foreign exchange in east Africa, and ensuring that wildlife persist for future generations has a direct link to the livelihoods of many local people.

What are the goals of the project?

In order to learn from spotted hyenas about other wildlife in their shared ecosystems, I'll be analyzing hyena behavior, physiology, and demography by following three different clans of spotted hyenas in the Masai Mara National Reserve. Behavior will be assessed by tracking where hyenas go using GPS collars that have been deployed on 18 spotted hyena females, physiology will be assessed through stress hormones that hyenas excrete in their feces, and demography will be monitored by maintaining birth records that have been in place since the 1980's.


To fund a 6 month field season, I will need fuel for vehicles, supplies for glucorticoid assays, and airtime for collars.

Meet the Team

David Green
David Green
PhD Candidate


David is a PhD Candidate in the Holekamp laboratory at Michigan State University. He has a B.S. in Conservation Biology from Arizona State University.


David first got interested in wildlife conservation and behavioral ecology while pursuing his undergraduate degree. During that time, he had the opportunity to work on a remote island in the Gulf of California studying California sea lions, and learned a great deal about the importance of behavior in conservation. This passion led me to the Mara in the spring of 2009, working with Dr. Holekamp as a Research Assistant. In 2010, David formally joined the lab as a PhD student.

Additional Information