Date: 06 June 2014 By: Andries van Zyl
Very little information is known about brown hyenas in and around the Soutpansberg Mountains, but this is all changing, thanks to a long-term research study being conducted by PhD student Katy Williams.
Katy is a researcher with Durham University in the United Kingdom and is part of the Primate and Predator Project based at Lajuma Research Centre.
Since 2011, Katy has been conducting wildlife research in this area and last year she placed GPS collars on four brown hyenas. Once the collar is on the animal, it collects data on the animal’s activity patterns continuously for 455 days. After that time, the collar drops off automatically. As brown hyenas move over a very large area, the collars could fall off anywhere. Data from this study have shown that brown hyenas in the Soutpansberg Mountains have territories as large as 244km² and can walk as far as 38 kilometres in one night.
On 27 May, the collar fitted to a hyena named Betton should have fallen off. Unfortunately, Katy was unable to locate Betton while she was wearing the collar, despite trying very hard. She spent many nights driving around the mountains on a quad bike to try and find the collar, with no success. She tried sleeping in a tent on top of the highest peak in the Soutpansberg Mountains and also waited next to a hyena latrine site. She played sounds of prey to lure predators in and flew over and around the mountains in a helicopter and a microlight, looking for the signal from the collar. Despite these efforts, Betton was not found and Katy received no data.
The data that this collar carries is extremely valuable for hyena research and conservation, because this is the first study on this species in this particular habitat in this part of South Africa. If anyone finds a collar on their land or photographs a collared hyena, please contact Katy Williams immediately, either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 0710559557 or 0833087027. If you would like to return the collar anonymously, please just drop it off at the Zoutpansberger's office in Makhado (Louis Trichardt). A reward will be given for the recovery of the collar.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.