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May 16, 2013

David Green:  Go Green, Go White, Go Hyena?

May 16, 2013

David Green is part of MSU zoologist Kay Holekamp's team that studies the behavior of spotted hyenas at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

Working on MSU’s Mara Hyena Project, we get pretty used to seeing hyenas covered in all sorts of substances. They show up at dens covered head to paw in mud, grass, blood, and even pieces of carcasses that they’ve just been ingesting. Hyenas love to roll in strong- and novel-smelling substances.

For example, we have on several occasions seen them discover a dead, upside-down leopard tortoise liquefying in the hot sun, then knock the shell over and roll vigorously in the “turtle soup.”

Needless to say, it takes something pretty special for the hyena to be covered in to really capture my attention. That’s why you can imagine my surprise when we saw one of our adult females, DIGS, (short for Diggory), show up to the communal den looking like she did in the photo above.

Yes—that’s a green hyena, the first of its kind, spotted in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Being that I am an MSU Spartan myself, I'm not sure I've ever been able to get our hyenas out here to shout "go white" to us (in response to us shouting "go green," of course), but it looks like DIGS got just about as close as she could to going green.

What she actually got herself into and where, we’re not entirely sure—probably some paint from a nearby lodge performing some renovations and improvements on their buildings. At any rate, it was a pretty interesting sight to see out here, and definitely the first green hyena we’ve ever seen in 25 years of hyena research.

Read more blogs from Kay Holekamp’s team at