Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) has raised an alarm over increased incidences of hyenas biting off buffalo testicles at Aberdare National Park.
The hungry scavengers are said to take advantage of the hanging parts of the animals leading to life time deformities of the buffaloes at the park.
According to Aberdare National Park KWS Senior Warden Lilian Ajuoga, the first incident was reported in 2008 but it has become a norm in the recent time.
“The incidences of hyenas biting of testicles and tails of buffaloes are everyday occurrences in the National Park. Tens of buffaloes are partly deformed after hyenas chewed off some parts,” Ms Ajuoga said.
She linked the incidents to lack of lions in the park, a scenario that has hampered the food chain which places hyenas in their scavenger category.
A balanced food chain is vital, the officer revealed adding that it helps animals in the ecosystem balance roles.
“In this case, hyenas are forced to hunt instead of scavenging on leftovers that have been left by other predators. This forces them to hunt on easily available things and since they lack the power to strangle, they depend on biting off hanging parts for survival,” she said.
She noted that owing to the fact that hyenas cannot hunt, they target loose hanging parts of the animals like testicles and tails.
“Hyenas literally feast on a prey when they are still alive because they cannot kill. In the National Park, hyenas target young buffalo bulls so they can strip off the ‘loose-hanging’ parts,” she says.
Although hyenas are known to target other small animals in the park, the officer also linked the increasing cases to lack of speed by the scavengers who sometimes lack something to feed on.
To save the buffaloes from the jaws of hyenas, Ajuoga said KWS is considering counting the number of hyenas within the National Park for purposes of management and sustainability.
“We are planning on a doing an animal count so as to establish the number of hyenas for purposes of management to avoid cases of unsustainability. This will also help in boosting survival for both hyenas and buffaloes,” she adds.
According to Ajuoga, Introduction of predators in the park will also place the scavengers at their rightful position.
“We are trying to avoid the scenario where buffaloes might not be able to sire in future with their vital organs bitten off,” she said.
Kenya Wildlife Service Assistant Director in charge of Mountain Areas Simon Gitau said the service has also considered involving researchers to shed light on what might have prompted the hyenas to bite off testicles and tails.
“This thing has been on-going for a while but that does not mean the population of buffaloes is going down. One healthy buffalo with intact organs can still mate with 50 females and successfully sire,” Gitau said.