City living – assessing the welfare costs of urban living in spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) in Malawi

Project: Research-related funding

Project Details


Globally, carnivores are in decline (Ripple et al. 2015). The distribution and abundance of
carnivores is affected by anthropogenic pressures including habitat fragmentation and
degradation, human-wildlife conflict (HWC) and hunting. Interactions between people and
wildlife are increasing as urban areas expand. This is of particular concern with carnivores (Elliot
et al., 2016; Knopff et al., 2016), as even small species can be perceived as threatening (König,
2008). Despite the highest rate of urbanization occurring in the developing world, to date urban
carnivore studies have focused on European and Asian cities (Marzluff et al. 2008, Pauchard et
al. 2006).
Lilongwe City (the capital of Malawi, central Africa) has a good network of green spaces and
river corridors, supporting a population of urban spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta). However,
HWC is frequent, often resulting in persecution, and extermination. Previous research of
anthropogenic effects on spotted hyaena has focused on east Africa (Abay et al., 2010; Yirga et
al., 2015), where some aspects of hyaena-human coexistence has been studied. However, no
studies have assessed the impacts of urbanization on the welfare of urban spotted hyaena. We
will conduct the first study to understand the drivers of HWC and the impacts of urban living on
the welfare and survival of spotted hyaena in Lilongwe City. We will measure and compare
welfare indicators of spotted hyaena between urban (Lilongwe district) and rural (Kasungu
National Park) populations. Using free darting techniques and observations at dens, we will
measure and compare the following indicators: fecal and hair cortisol levels (as a proxy of
stress), mean body condition, tooth ware, hematological parameters, and disease (toxoplasmosis
and rabies). We will use novel behavioral experiments to assess individual boldness in urban
and rural populations as a risk factor which may increase propensity for HWC and therefore
mortality and stress (Gering et al. 2020). Results will be used to inform HWC, population
conservation and welfare management to enhance the future survival and welfare of spotted
hyaena in Africa under increasing urbanization

Key findings

Short title30000
Effective start/end date1/01/231/12/26

Collaborative partners

  • University of Bath (lead)
  • Conservation Research Africa (Joint applicant)
  • Wild Animal Initiative (Project partner)

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land


  • Human Wildlife Conflict
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Crocuta crocuta
  • Urban Ecology
  • Africa
  • QL Zoology


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