One of the main aims of the Primate and Primate Project is to evaluate the nature and extent of human-wildlife conflict within the Soutpansberg Mountains. This information helps us develop strategies to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
Interviews with local farmers and community members indicated that brown hyaenas are sometimes being persecuted in this area because they are perceived as a threat to livestock. However brown hyaenas are primarily scavengers and seldom kill livestock. Many people living in a nearby community had negative perceptions about hyaenas, often because they were scared of them or associated hyaenas with witchcraft. Other evidence indicating that brown hyaenas are facing challenges came from camera trap images of hyaenas with snares on them or hyaenas with missing limbs, probably from snaring.
Local interviews and communication with the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Roadkill Mitigation Project Coordinator, Wendy Collinson, indicated that brown hyaenas and other predators are sometimes the victim of traffic collisions. Hyaena carcasses found on roads are sometimes missing body parts as these are taken for use in traditional medicine (Photo: Wendy Collinson).
Unfortunately there is a great deal of misconceptions about hyaenas and this is often responsible for their persecution. We decided it was about time to educate people and change attitudes towards brown hyaenas which led to Hyena time, a children’s book written for local school children.
Katy Williams secured funding from the Earthwatch Shulman Award 2013 – 2014 to fund the production of a children’s book about brown hyaenas. The book also aimed to discuss how research on brown hyaenas is conducted. Early in 2014 Katy started illustrating the book and writing the story.
Hyena time was translated into four local languages – English, Afrikaans, se Sotho and Venda. A teacher’s guide was produced to accompany the book and help educators link the story with the national curriculum.
In August we received the finished books back from the printers. Research assistants helped to package letters, teachers’ guides and class sets of the book together for distribution to ten local schools and one creche.
We wanted to ensure that the books were distributed to schools located in areas where brown hyaenas live. A large camera trapping project on brown hyaena density and distribution enabled us to select hot spots.
Some of the schools that received books were very rural. Several of the schools had few resources and little or no environmental education.
Handing out books in Venda to a rural school.
Several of the schools that received books are involved with the WESSA Eco-schools programme (http://www.wessa.org.za/what-we-do/eco-schools.htm), which we support through our Earthwatch project. Judy van Schalkwyk, the WESSA Eco-schools Provincial Programme Manager for Limpopo North and Blouberg, enabled this connection.
The book has had a great reception so far. We hope that the story will make a long term impact to change attitudes and educate young people to appreciate animals in their area.
We are planning on making the book internationally available through Amazon.com soon. Please keep following the blog and Facebook page for updates on this and please contact Katy Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly for any additional information on Hyena time.
The production of this book would not have been possible without funding from the Earthwatch Shulman Award. Katy would like to thank Judy van Schalkwyk, Sam Williams, Noeks Cilliers, Aluwani Nengovhela, Silas Lemekwana, Annaline Smit, Sophie Tuppen and Arrow Printers for their help with the production of the book and the teacher’s guide.