Co-occurrence of high densities of brown hyena and spotted hyena in central Tuli, Botswana

S. Vissia*, R. Wadhwa, F. van Langevelde

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Large carnivore populations are declining worldwide due to anthropogenic causes such as habitat loss and human expansion into wild areas. Competition between large carnivores can exacerbate this decline. While brown hyena Parahyaena brunnea and spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta belong to the same family, they are rarely found in the same area or co-occur at low densities as spotted hyena are known to exclude brown hyena. In Central Tuli, Botswana, however, brown hyena and spotted hyena are both found at high densities. We undertook a camera trap survey in this area to estimate the densities of both species, and to examine temporal overlap and co-detection patterns of brown and spotted hyena. Estimated population densities based on spatial capture–recapture models were 10.5 ± 1.9/100 km2 for brown hyena and 14.9 ± 2.2/100 km2 for spotted hyena. These population densities are among the highest reported estimates in southern Africa. Strong temporal overlap was found between brown and spotted hyena, while there was no decrease in detection rate of brown hyena at camera sites where spotted hyena were also detected, which indicates that both hyena species did not tend to avoid encounters. Although both species compete for the same prey, we suggest as possible explanations that prey densities are high and that competition does not significantly negatively impact brown hyena, because brown hyena is a scavenger whereas spotted hyena scavenge and kill prey. With the found high densities of both carnivores, this study adds to the known variation in composition of existing large carnivore communities and suggests testable explanations for these densities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-150
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Zoology
Issue number2
Early online date13 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • brown hyena
  • camera trap
  • co-detection
  • competition
  • large carnivores
  • population density
  • spotted hyena
  • temporal activity


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