What’s that Cackle?

Imagine that you are holidaying somewhere out in the wild, near a forest, and just as you are about to retire to bed, you hear cackles that curdles your blood.  What could it be? You wonder.  A witch laughing hysterically?  Relax, it is more likely to be a hyena, out on its nightly hunt for food or perhaps calling out to its mate.

If you happen to look out of your window and spot one, you may not find it quite so attractive- with its large head, body tapering to a narrow rear end and transverse stripes.  The tiger’s stripes, most people feel, are far more attractive than those of the Striped Hyena.  Attractive or not, these evil sounding creatures do a great service to the jungle by being scavengers.  They feed, most times, on carrion – carcasses of dead animals. Thus by cleaning up a huge amount of dead matter, they play a very important role in keeping the ecosystem healthy.

Often, while the big cats of the jungle are busy enjoying the kill, the vultures and hyenas lurk about patiently, to get their pickings of the hunt once the hunters are done having their fill.  But there is an order to having a share of the kill: the vultures and jackals flock around the leftovers to be the first ones to enjoy the entrails and lighter pickings and finally, the hyenas get their chance – so what they get to eat are mostly bones and the courser remains.  They can crush the bones with their powerful jaws and very strong teeth.

But the hyenas are not always scavengers.  Quite often than not, this canine is compelled, when carrion is scarce, to sneak into a village and walk off with a hen or even small cattle.

This, added to its not-so-charismatic looks and spine-chilling calls, make it one of the most unpopular of wild animals, especially among the villagers and farmers who may be dwelling close to the forests.  Unfortunately, this often leads to farmers’ laying traps and poisoned baits to do away with these poor creatures.

Through the ages, the imaginations of mankind have led to a superstitious belief that hyenas influence the spirits of people, rob graves and steal children.  So sad, that this poor creature, who plays such a crucial role in the web of life, is so unpopular.



Read my story ‘Evil Laughter’ in my book, The Less Liked Lovables.


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About the Author /

Katie Bagli is an avid nature lover and she gives expression to her passion by writing for children. She has several published titles to her credit, nearly all of which are on various subjects of nature. Besides writing Katie also enjoys illustrating her own books. Through her writing she strives to bring about awareness and sensitise the young to the environment and wildlife. Her books have been recommended for general reading in schools and also to college students of zoology. Nature and environment are topics close to her heart. When the BMC came up with a plan of revamping Rani Bagh (now known as VJB Udyan and Zoo), Byculla, Katie joined four other women to form the Save Ranibagh Foundation which campaigned to save the more than 3000 trees that exist there from the construction work that would take a toll on them. Katie has conducted various wildlife workshops and story-telling sessions in schools (in Mumbai and elsewhere) and other institutions. She had also been invited by the Andhra Pradesh Government to Vijayawada to conduct a session on Literacy Day for the Differently Abled Children. She is on the advisory board of the science magazine Spectrum, a joint venture by the faculties of St. Xavier’s College and Sophia College, which is targeted for school children of standards 7 – 9. Katie also blogs for Saevus, India’s premier wildlife magazine. When she is not writing Katie devotes her time to taking tree walks, nature trails, and conducting creative nature writing workshops for children. She also indulges in fun-filled nature-related activities for the young and old, like writing scripts and organising puppet shows and plays.

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