Hyenas Change Their Diet During Lent, According to a Poop Analysis

By Sarah Zhang | April 6, 2012 8:26 am

spotted hyena
Did you know I can eat and digest bone? Plenty of calcium.

After painstakingly identifying all the animal hairs in hyena poop, scientists have determined that Lent forces spotted hyenas in Ethiopia to change their diets too. No, Ethiopians have not managed to convert hyenas—they just deprive them of butcher scraps.

As the heavily Orthodox population gave up meat for Lent, hyenas could no longer depend on scavenging outside butcher shops, so they hunted down donkeys instead. Donkeys are a common livestock animal in northern Ethiopia and an especially easy target because they’re kept outdoors at night. While opportunistic hyenas will take whatever dead meals they can get, don’t underestimate the hyena’s ability to hunt down prey several times bigger than itself.

The research team had collected hyena feces from March to May and identified all the animal hairs found in them. With the start of Lent, goat and sheep hairs dropped off in frequency, while the percentage of hairs belonging donkeys doubled to over 30%. Hyenas will eat practically anything—from putrid corpses to dung—so donkeys are pretty much a treat.

Image via Flickr / Diamond Glacier Adventures


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