n the final episode of “Tribes, Predators and Me” (BBC Two Television) renowned Scottish wildlife cameraman, Gordon Buchanan, journeys across Ethiopia to reveal the curious and complex relationship its people have with hyenas.

Hyenas are loathed and feared by many people. Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan journeys across Ethiopia to find out how the people here can live so close to these powerful carnivores. Ethiopia has more hyenas than anywhere else in the world, and Gordon wants to find out why.

He starts his journey in the capital, Addis Ababa. Even here on the outskirts of this massive city, spotted hyenas prowl looking for food. Local hyena expert Girum Henok takes Gordon on foot to see hyenas at night in a small patch of forest. Weighing up to 90 kilos and capable of killing lions in packs, hyenas are one of Africa’s most impressive carnivores. Girum tells Gordon that hyenas are tolerated here because people believe hyenas ward off the devil.

Gordon travels to the remote Omo Valley to meet a cattle-herding people called the Bodi. He meets Baradi, a spiritual leader, and Bibani, a young mother. They will be his Bodi mentors in hyena country. They are hyena experts, disliking them because their cattle are preyed upon by hyenas on a regular basis. Baradi takes Gordon on foot to a hyena den. It seems the Bodi often destroy hyena dens, but mostly in retaliation for attacks on livestock.

In the Omo Valley, wildlife has largely been replaced by cattle so hyenas have little choice but to raid livestock. Bibani asks Gordon to sleep outside overnight to ward off hyenas. The next morning, Gordon learns he slept as hyenas entered the Bodi’s village. Bibani is worried and Gordon helps her fix her thorn fence. Bibani names Gordon Onyabassa, after a bullock he must now protect. He decorates it with dung and ash.

Gordon learns from elders that there was a time before the Bodi became animal herders when hyenas and the Bodi lived in peace. He also learns that contrary to popular belief, hyenas hunt more than they scavenge. The Bodi rely completely on their cattle to survive, but those cattle are a tempting target for hyenas. Gordon visits a neighbouring Bodi village that has had a cow injured by a hyena. Baradi shows Gordon the AK47 trap they set to kill marauding hyenas.

Baradi also shows Gordon another reason they rely on cattle. The Bodi are famous for their Ka’el ritual. During the rainy season the Bodi drink blood from the necks of their cows. This doesn’t harm the cows, so it is more sustainable than slaughtering them for meat, but allows Bodi men to fatten up so that they become attractive as potential husbands. The fattest men and the best dancers are the most eligible!

Gordon leaves his Bodi friends in Omo Valley. He has learnt that the Bodi see hyenas as a cunning and respected enemy. He arrives in Harar, a medieval city with a reputation for having hundreds of hyenas. Gordon visits the local gravedigger for advice and then goes on foot at night with a thermal camera looking for hyenas in the spooky graveyard. He finds a pack of hyenas feasting and retreats, but they don’t seem to be robbing graves.

Hyena

People of

Ethiopia

The next day Gordon meets local hyena expert Yusef Saleh, who is rehabilitating an orphaned hyena. That night Gordon visits Yusef’s son Abbas, who feeds wild hyenas near the city walls to show tourists. Gordon sits beside Abbas surrounded by hyenas, illustrating how big they are. These predators don’t attack people, but instead look submissive. The next day Gordon takes a few old bones to meet the ‘graveyard hyenas’, which again show him their gentler side. He sees a young hyena cub, which could explain why the hyenas are in the graveyard – they must have a den here. Gordon invites Baradi and his daughter Choma to meet Harar’s hyenas. Unlike the people of Harar, these Bodi cattle-herders don’t like hyenas, but they seem to soften towards them once they get close. If their cattle were protected, perhaps even the Bodi could forge a more peaceful relationship with hyenas.

During his visit to Ethiopia, Gordon has seen a variety of beliefs and attitudes towards hyenas. From tolerance to grudging respect and even encouragement, the people of this spectacular country have a lesson for the world – a lesson about not judging a predator based on its appearance.

Bodi village that has had a cow injured by a hyena. Baradi shows Gordon the AK47 trap they set to kill marauding hyenas.

Baradi also shows Gordon another reason they rely on cattle. The Bodi are famous for their Ka’el ritual. During the rainy season the Bodi drink blood from the necks of their cows. This doesn’t harm the cows, so it is more sustainable than slaughtering them for meat, but allows Bodi men to fatten up so that they become attractive as potential husbands. The fattest men and the best dancers are the most eligible!

Gordon leaves his Bodi friends in Omo Valley. He has learnt that the Bodi see hyenas as a cunning and respected enemy. He arrives in Harar, a medieval city with a reputation for having hundreds of hyenas. Gordon visits the local gravedigger for advice and then goes on foot at night with a thermal camera looking for hyenas in the spooky graveyard. He finds a pack of hyenas feasting and retreats, but they don’t seem to be robbing graves.

The next day Gordon meets local hyena expert Yusef Saleh, who is rehabilitating an orphaned hyena. That night Gordon visits Yusef’s son Abbas, who feeds wild hyenas near the city walls to show tourists. Gordon sits beside Abbas surrounded by hyenas, illustrating how big they are. These predators don’t attack people, but instead look submissive. The next day Gordon takes a few old bones to meet the ‘graveyard hyenas’, which again show him their gentler side. He sees a young hyena cub, which could explain why the hyenas are in the graveyard – they must have a den here. Gordon invites Baradi and his daughter Choma to meet Harar’s hyenas. Unlike the people of Harar, these Bodi cattle-herders don’t like hyenas, but they seem to soften towards them once they get close. If their cattle were protected, perhaps even the Bodi could forge a more peaceful relationship with hyenas.

During his visit to Ethiopia, Gordon has seen a variety of beliefs and attitudes towards hyenas. From tolerance to grudging respect and even encouragement, the people of this spectacular country have a lesson for the world – a lesson about not judging a predator based on its appearance.

Source: www.bbc.co.uk