STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

One animal that, so far as we know, has not appeared on Nigella's menu yet is the latest subject of our series, Sounds Wild. Student zoologist Sarah Benson-Amram from Michigan State University lived in a tent in Kenya for two years studying spotted hyenas, and she tells MORNING EDITION how she recorded their sounds.

(Soundbite of hyenas)

Ms. SARAH BENSON-AMRAM (Student Zooloist, Michigan State University): I had been driving around for a couple hours just looking for different hyenas, and it was near a river. The hyena was actually hidden in a hole in the ground. Whooping pretty - it was a pretty distressed-sounding whoop. Her name is Pan, one of the top-ranking hyenas in our study clan. She had, on her shoulder, a lion paw scratch marks. There was also a carcass around 300 meters from this scene, so my guess is that they had had an interaction with lions earlier that morning that I hadn't seen, and that they had gotten pretty beat up. Spotted hyenas are really interesting. They live in social groups called clans of up to 90 individuals, and it's a female-dominated society.

(Soundbite of hyenas)

Ms. BENSON-AMRAM: Spotted hyenas, in particular, are often called laughing hyenas because of this vocalization; they giggle. And it actually has nothing to do with hyenas having a good time. In fact, they're usually pretty stressed out. Often they giggle when they've been attacked. You'll often have just a whole mess of hyenas trying to get access to a carcass, so you'll have one hyena biting another, and when that happens, the hyena that's been bitten will often giggle. So you hear a lot of giggles at carcasses.

(Soundbite of hyenas)

Ms. BENSON-AMRAM: I love them. They just have personality. You know, there are some that are just really aggressive. There are some that are more playful, some that are really curious. It's like a soap opera. You follow their lives, and you get really involved.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Thanks to NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology for tracking down these sounds. And you can hear more of them at npr.org.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.