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In Pics: Ethiopia’s Harar city uses hyenas for waste management

A family in Ethiopia’s walled city of Harar has taken up the task of domesticating Hyenas, turning them into scavengers for the city’s waste.

world Updated: Jul 18, 2017 12:02 IST
Harar, Ethiopia
Abbas Yusuf, 23, known as Hyena Man, feeds a hyena on the outskirts of the walled city of Harar, Ethiopia. He took over the responsibility of feeding the hyenas surrounding the outskirts of the city from his father who was the original ’Hyena Man’.(Tiksa Negeri / REUTERS)

Hyenas roam the streets of Harar in eastern Ethiopia every night, seeking scraps of meat to drag to the nearby caves but residents are not afraid. A family chosen by the town to feed the animals is not daunted by the task despite the dangers that are associated with coming into close quarters with such wild animals.

Hyenas wait for Hyena Man Abbas Yusuf fro their daily mean on the outskirts of the walled city of Harar, Ethiopia. (Tiksa Negeri / REUTERS)

Harar, with a population of 240,000 people, started to expand out of its original wall after 1882 and is now surrounded by modern buildings.

People drive tuk-tuks outside of the walled city of Harar. 16th century Emir Nur Ibn Mujahid built a four-meter-high protective wall around the city, which rising population has breached, creating a need for protection against wild hyenas. (REUTERS)

Abbas Yusuf, known as Hyena Man, learnt to feed the hyenas from his father, Yusuf Mume Salleh, who fed them for 45 years before passing the job to his son 13 years ago.

“Hyenas have never attacked the people of Harar after my father started feeding them, unless you harm their babies,” Abbas Yusuf told Reuters.

Yusuf Mume salleh, 70, known as the first Hyena Man, sits near his house within the walled city of Harar, Ethiopia. (Tiksa Negeri / REUTERS)

“My father is always thankful that I continued the good work he started and I will pass it onto my children when I grow old.”

His work is now an attraction, drawing in tourists who came to see the city’s ancient mosques nestled within its old stone walls.

Abbas Yusuf plays with a hyena cub near his house in Harar, Ethiopia. Abbas has given the hyenas names according to their behavior and appearance. Among them are ‘Dabbassoo’ or ‘Hairy’, ‘Tuqan Dilii’ or ‘Lazy’, and ‘Qallaa’, meaning ‘skinny’. (Tiksa Negeri / REUTERS)

“I am privileged by God to be a good friend to those misunderstood animals,” he said.

“I have a baby hyena in my house and keep it in my bedroom (and I’m) not worried it will bite me when I sleep.”

To encourage visitors to trust the hyenas, Abbas feeds them directly from his mouth.

People sit outside the walled city of Harar, Ethiopia. The work undertaken by Abbas’s family has made brought about a change in the behaviour of the wild hyenas, making the city safer, and cleaner once night falls. (Tiksa Negeri / REUTERS)

The hyenas live in caves outside the city and roam the rubbish dumps, also outside the walls. Some hyenas give birth in the ditches in the middle of the city.

“The hyenas are a gift of nature to clean up the city we mess during the day time. Without them the city will be much dirtier,” Anisa Mohammed, a 32-year old bread vendor, said.

Abbas collects the leftover meat from the slaughterhouse and meat market within Harar. He uses this refuse from within the city and feeds it to the hyenas, reducing their need to forage and hunt within city limits. (Tiksa Negeri / REUTERS)

It has been a center of Islamic culture since it was founded in the 7th century. In the 16th century Emir Nur Ibn Mujahid built a four-meter-high protective wall around the city, pierced by five gates.

Muslims take part in Friday prayers within the walled city of Harar, Ethiopia. (Tiksa Negeri / REUTERS)

Every year since the 16th century, to mark the birth of Prophet Mohammed, the city’s residents offer the hyenas porridge mixed with butter and goat meat on the “Hakim Mountain”, outside the city, believed to be a holy site because the ancient Muslim leaders of the city are buried there.

Abbas’ unique way of feeding hyenas has become another attraction for visitors to the ancient city who would earlier focus on its religious sites. (Tiksa Negeri / REUTERS)

If the hyenas refuse the sacrifice, people believe the country will have bad luck.

First Published: Jul 18, 2017 11:40 IST