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Current Work - "Hyenas"

I love spotted hyenas, they flippin' rock. They are one of the most intelligent mammals with good problem solving ability. They rank highest, even above chimpanzees, in solving problems cooperatively, completing joint tasks quickly and effectively, with little or no prior training. They can also count to at least three.

They live in very socially complex clans of up to 100 individuals and every hyena is able to keep track of every other hyena's social status. Inferior hyenas frequently form coalitions to get what they want from older, more socially superior hyenas. From birth they fight for status and most cubs are killed by their littermates. It takes years for a young hyena's skull to fully mature into bone crushing strength, so hyena mothers look after their cubs for four years or so.

Hyenas can live with the most appalling injuries, just getting on with disabilities that would mean the end for any other animal. They are immune to nearly every disease, and are thriving where other large predators are declining. They suffer hate driven attacks by lions, who have been witnessed to attack and maul sleeping hyenas for no reason whatsoever, and lions frequently steal hyena prey. They are excellent hunters and most of their food is live caught, although they can also stomach carrion that is so rotten it would be poisonous to anything else.

There was a hyena female who was once queen of her clan. A group of younger females formed a coalition to dipose her, and she suffered horrendous injuries as a result of the attack. She was left with no ears, no back feet, and found herself at the bottom of the social structure. This amazing girl learnt to walk on only her front legs, with her disabled back legs tucked up underneath her, and one day a researcher followed her for six kilometres as she went about her business. She not only survived, she birthed and raised a cub! When times are tough, I think of this lady.

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