Striped Hyaena: Reproduction

In the wild, litter size varies from one to four (median of three) throughout the year, after a gestation period of 90-91 days (Pocock 1941, Ronnefeld 1969, Heptner and Sludskij 1980). Average litter size in captivity is 2.4, with a range of one to five (Rieger 1979a). Parturition is preceded by intensive digging behaviour by the female and often followed by a one-day post-partum oestrus three weeks later (Rieger 1981).

Cubs are born blind, with closed ear tubes and white to grey fur with clear black stripes. Eyes first open after seven to eight days, and teeth erupt from day 21 onwards. Cubs begin to eat meat at the age of 30 days (Rieger 1979a). Weaning in captivity takes place after eight weeks (Heptner and Sludskij 1980). In the wild cubs have been observed suckling until four to five months of age (Rieger 1981), or up to 10-12 months (Kruuk 1976). Both the male and female bring food to the cubs (Kruuk 1976, Davidar 1985, 1990).

Various ages of sexual maturity have been reported. A striped hyaena was four years old when she gave birth to her first litter in the zoo of Tashkent (Heptner and Sludskij 1980), but most females mature by the age of two to three years in other zoos (Rieger 1979a). Mendelssohn (1985) reported three free-living individuals in Israel of approximately 15 months of age with three large embryos.

The striped hyaena prefers to den in caves. Den entrances are fairly narrow and may be hidden by large boulders. Measurements of two dens in the Karakum desert yielded a width of 0.67m and 0.72m for the entrance. The dens lead 3m and 2.5m down and extended over a distance of 4.15m and 5m. There were no lateral extensions or special chambers (Heptner and Sludskij 1980). These simple constructions contrast with much more elaborate designs exceeding 27m in length discovered in Israel (Kerbis-Peterhans and Horwitz 1992.

Little has been reported regarding sex ratios in the wild.  However, in Kenya the two litters sexed had three males in one litter and one male and one female cub in the other (Wagner 2006)  The well sampled adult population had a sex ratio of 4:5 adult females to males.  As there are no long-term studies of the species in the wild, longevity has only been reported in captivity at 23 to 24 years.  From the Laikipia study, non-age specific probabilities of survival for adult hyaenas (those over two years of age) was estimated in the wild for the duration following the time each was first identified: 0.96 for six months (n=27), 0.89 for 1 year (n=27), 0.62 for 2 years (n=21), and 0.47 for 3 years (n=17) (Wagner 2006).  Of the nine cubs identified before six months of age (three female, four male, two unknown sex), at least four (two female, two male) had survived to at least two years.  This is a minimal survival rate as the cubs were not radio-collared and survival could only be confirmed if the hyaenas were resighted.

Scene at a striped hyaena den in the Shaba Reserve, Kenya. Photo by Paul Sullivan.

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