Desert Rhino Camp

Our Spotted Hyena Totem - The Champ of Desert Rhino Camp


Selma Benjamin


In African culture, the spotted hyena is often associated with bad spirits, but at Wilderness Desert Rhino Camp we have adopted this powerful and mysterious animal as our totem.


As with many other African cultures, the Oshiwambo (the biggest ethnic group in Namibia) clans often use animals as a symbol for their family. Through familial lineages these clans identify totems of sacred animals to express characteristics and define their cultural relationships in terms of origins, which can also give ancestral guidance to intercultural behaviours.



“These totems guide us in everything we do as Africans, such as our communications, rituals, worship and traditional heritage of knowledge, wealth, power and ethnical identification. Tribally each clan has its totems. For example, those that belong to the hyena totem are called Aakwanekamba”.



Born in late 2018, this young male hyena has made the area around Desert Rhino Camp his home, and is often seen frequenting camp or investigating a vehicle, a constant object of his curiosity.



The den where he was born with his two sisters has since been abandoned by the rest of his family. This is common practise among hyena clans. Females stay with their birth clan, but males leave upon maturity at around age three, if not sooner. Although slightly younger than normal to be on his own, our little “champ” appears happy and healthy.



During our regular drives through the area, we stop by the hyena den once a week to check in on the young male. He’s an endless source of interest for us in camp, and seems to doing very well on his own, a true champion of the wild!


Spotted hyenas have distinctive vocalisations. In fact, they are the most vocal mammals in Africa, with over 11 different sounds that researchers have recorded to date. The famous “giggle” they produce sounds like a human laughing. This laughing sound is used during times of nervous excitement or submission to a dominant hyena. The "whoop" is a call heard for miles and is used to find cubs, advertise territory, or bring the clan together. Other sounds include grunting and growling. Hyenas also use calls and scent marks to claim their territory.

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