Berkeley hyenas alive and well for now

This is a correction to Sarah’s previous post about the hyenas at UC Berkeley.

I apologize for leading many readers to believe that the Berkeley hyena colony is already shut down and that all of the animals have been euthanized. This is not the case. There are 20 spotted hyenas living in the colony, and they have funding through the end of January 2012. The fight for funding for has been a long and fierce one, and although researchers there are running out of time, they have not run out of hope. They are currently exploring different funding options, including NSF grants and private donations.

In the event that the colony is not funded, they hope to place the animals in zoos or sanctuaries. They already have an amazing track record of donating animals to zoos–41 have been relocated throughout the history of the project. Despite this past success, there may not be enough time to place all of the hyenas before the colony shuts down. If researchers discover that their requests for funds have been denied in December, they will scramble to place the hyenas before money runs out and the animals have to be euthanized.

Everyone involved with the Berkeley colony is working hard to stay positive, but they express both personal and professional sorrow over the thought of losing the colony once and for all. As Mary Weldele, an assistant specialist at the colony, puts it, “It will be a loss to science if this unique colony closes down due to lack of funds. There is still much work that can be done, and an amazing array of scientists who are interested in continuing this research.”

So readers, if any of you have ideas for how the Berkeley colony might obtain funding or where hyenas could be placed in the event that funding runs out, please contact Mary immediately. I would love to be able to visit a still thriving spotted hyena colony when I next come to San Francisco, and this time my sister will have no choice but to accompany me.

Learn more about the Field Station for the Study of Behavior, Ecology and Reproduction which houses the hyena at this page. For updates on the hyenas, tune in for a news segment about the colony on the local CBS affiliate next Friday, Nov. 11 at 11pm. UPDATE: the news segment will be on Thursday, Nov. 10 at 11pm, barring further changes.

Sarah Jones is a graduate student in zoology at Michigan State University

Photo credits: Katy Califf

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  1. Amanda

    Thanks for posting this correction. Having visited the colony about two weeks ago, I saw that the hyenas were alive and well, and basically got the same story from Mary that you outlined above: funding ends in Jan. 2012, and the animals will not be euthanized, but relocated to zoos. I hope funding comes through so the Berkeley community can continue to benefit from the presence of these interesting animals.

  2. I’ve been up there a number of years ago when I was an undergrad research assistant. That colony was my earliest taste of behavioral research! Those animals also really changed my view of hyenas as a species. It would be so sad to see it dismantled, I wish the funding was more stable.

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  4. JS Lee

    While I’m far from able to fund a project, I’d be willing to donate what I can to help keep these animals and the research alive. I’d love to visit them some day, the knowledge we’ve gained from this work is astounding.

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  6. Now we can truly help these amazing animals:
    visit to find out how we can preserve this amazing living treasure. Time is running out , funding might be there until the end of March 2012