News / Africa

    Ethiopia's 'Hyena Men' Talk to the Animals

    Adam Mohamad, a butcher is not a "hyena man," but like many Hararis, he feels close to the animals and will feed them by hand if they come to his shop.
    Adam Mohamad, a butcher is not a "hyena man," but like many Hararis, he feels close to the animals and will feed them by hand if they come to his shop.
    Heather Murdock

    The countryside surrounding Harar, an ancient walled city in eastern Ethiopia, is dense with hyenas.  The people of Harar say hyenas are not dangerous scavengers; they are a regular part of society. 

    Salamo Fantan reaches into a straw basket for strips of raw goat meat, and calls the wild hyenas by name.  He tosses the meat to some animals, which look like large brown dogs with razor sharp teeth and black jowls.  Others approach Salamo and take the meat from his hand, or off a stick in his mouth.  A few tourists take pictures, lighting the feeding with the headlights of their taxis.

    Across town, Youseff Mume Saleh feeds another family of hyenas with his hands and with his mouth.  He says the show goes on with or without the tourists.  Feeding the hyenas is a family tradition and a spiritual calling.  He says he speaks to the hyenas, and they communicate with him.

    When bad news is coming, he says, the hyenas cry.  It is hard to find a Harari person skeptical of this claim.

    The 'hyena men' of Harar, an ancient city in eastern Ethiopia, call the animals by name, and feed them goat meat with their hands or from sticks in their mouths.
    The 'hyena men' of Harar, an ancient city in eastern Ethiopia, call the animals by name, and feed them goat meat with their hands or from sticks in their mouths.

    Youseff says the Harari hyenas protect the city from other hyena packs, known to attack children and livestock because they are not well-cared for by their human neighbors.  He also says the animals serve as a kind of almanac, predicting the city's prosperity or suffering.

    Every year, Muslims in this historically Islamic city gather to celebrate Ashura, the Islamic new year.  Hyenas always attend the celebration and are offered a special porridge.  If the coming year will be good, they dine.  If the year will bring hardship, the hyenas refuse to eat.

    The wife of one of the sheiks who hosts the annual event, Kadiga Ali, says the last time the hyenas refused to eat was 2005.  That year hyenas in the nearby countryside killed two children, and some cows.

    A butcher who sells lamb and goat meat, Adam Mohamad, says the Harari relationship with the hyenas goes far beyond the spiritual.  Holes near the gates of the walled city, which is more than 1,000 years old, drain rain water out, and allow hyenas to enter at night, to clean up the city garbage.

    Adam also says local hyenas have excellent memories and will seek revenge on humans that harm them or their families.  When they come around his store at night, Adam holds strips of meat in hands for the animals to eat.  One day one of his neighbors got annoyed and threw a stone at a hyena.  In retaliation, the hyena ate one of the man's sheep.

    But its not just spirituality, superstition and practicality that tie the Harari people to their neighbor hyenas.  It is also friendship.  The "hyena men" acknowledge that they feed the animals to make money from tourists, and to prevent attacks on goats, sheep and cows.  But, they say, if there were no tourists, and there was no danger to the livestock, they would still feed the animals.  More than pets or neighbors, these men say, the hyenas are their family.

    You May Like

    Brexit Vote Triggers Increase in Racist Attacks

    Britain's decision to leave European Union seen by some as 'permission' to unleash anti-immigrant resentment

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    AIIB Takes Big Strides Amid Fears About China's Dominance

    Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank says it is independent, but concerns persist; China holds 20.6 percent of bank's shares, others have less than 7.5 percent each

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmarki
    X
    John Owens
    June 26, 2016 2:04 PM
    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora