Welcome !

We are an international team of behavioral biologists who have been studying spotted hyenas in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania for 25 years. Spotted hyenas are most fascinating animals. They live in large groups called ‘clans’, are socially highly competent and have extraordinary features like the female ‘pseudopenis’. Being the most abundant large carnivore they play an essential role in the functioning of some of the world’s most magnificent ecosystems. Learn more about hyenas >

WHAT we study

We have been following the behaviour and life histories of all spotted hyenas of the eight clans inhabiting the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania since 1996. This can be highly entertaining and the hyenas’ struggle for high social status, their formation of coalitions and their conspiracies often remind us of the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’. Get to know the “Chubbies”, the “Globetrotters” and our other study clans!

We explore the importance of social rank and social relationships in group-living animal societies, the influence of mothers on the success of their offspring, the costs and benefits of life in group, and how mate choice shapes female and male reproductive tactics. We also study the relationships between hyenas and their main prey, the competition with lions, and the influence of diseases on their survival and reproductive success. Check out our most exciting findings >

HOW we study

All our work is based on detailed observations of the behaviour of spotted hyenas and monitoring of their life histories. For this, it is essential that we individually recognise all hyenas at all times. This is quite challenging given that up to 550 hyenas live in the Crater. But with a bit of practice, anyone can master it! See how we do it >

Another cornerstone of our research is the collection of samples for paternity assignment and other lab analyses. To collect samples, we apply non-invasive methods only. Thus, our study animals are neither immobilised nor handled, and are not equipped with collars. More about our methods >


WHERE we study

The 300 km2 large Ngorongoro Crater in Northern Tanzania is the world’s largest intact caldera. It is a highly fertile area that hosts one of the world’s highest densities of herbivores and large carnivores. It is a geographically distinct unit, but many birds and mammals (including rhinos, elephants, cheetahs, lions and spotted hyenas) move in and out of the Crater. More about our study area >