(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The animal that authorities killed in the capital's northern suburb of Shafa Badran on Saturday was a dog, not a hyena, an ecological expert said on Monday.
"The physical description of a hyena, especially the striped hyena which inhabits Jordan, doesn't match the characteristics of the animal in the photo taken after it was killed," Ehab Eid, head of the Field Research Section at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), told The Jordan Times yesterday.
Hyenas' hind legs are significantly shorter than the forelimbs, which causes the back to slope downwards, while their ears are very long and sharply pointed, Eid explained.
News reports earlier this week said that police and municipal workers had killed a hyena in Shafa Badran after they failed to catch it alive to send it to a zoo.
Although the animal in question was not a hyena, Eid noted that the carnivorous mammal can be found throughout Jordan.
"It isn't odd to spot hyenas in Shafa Badran or any other part of Jordan, because they exist across the country, but are found in larger numbers in the Jordan Valley and the south and east of the country," he said.
Hyenas in Jordan tend to frequent uninhabited areas, the researcher said, highlighting that the hyena, a scavenger which feeds on the carcasses of dead animals, will travel up to 67 kilometres from its lair in search of food.
He underscored that when hyenas show up in inhabited areas, they are likely searching for a water source, because their diet depends on dead animals, which are usually dry.
"Although we don't have statistics about the hyena population in Jordan, we can tell from field work that their numbers are dwindling," Eid noted, warning that hunting and destruction of their natural habitat are causing the number of hyenas to drop every year.
"People either kill hyenas out of fear for their lives, or hunt them to stuff or for their flesh and blood, which they believe have medicinal uses. Others catch them and sell them to zoos for JD25-JD50," Eid said.
The striped hyena is native to the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus, Central Asia and India. The carnivorous mammal is frequently mentioned in Middle Eastern literature and folklore as a dangerous predator or a symbol of treachery, although attacks on human beings are rare, according to web sources.
A nocturnal animal, the striped hyena typically only makes itself visible in complete darkness, and is quick to return to its lair before sunrise. Although it is often considered a cowardly animal (due to its habit of feigning death when attacked), it has been known to stand its ground against larger predators such as leopards in disputes over food.
The species is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as near threatened, as the global population is estimated to be under 10,000 mature individuals and continues to experience deliberate and incidental persecution along with a decrease in its prey base such that it may come close to meeting a continuing decline of 10 per cent over the next three generations.