According to zoo officials, hyenas usually bear litters of two to four cubs with only an approximate 40% survival rate. Moments after the birth of the second cub, animal care staff noted that the first cub was showing signs of aggression toward its sibling.
“We have to walk a fine line with care for hyenas as we can only separate the cubs from their mother and sibling for short periods of time,” said Kristen Moore, Animal Curator. “Hand-raising cubs is not an option because hyenas learn appropriate behaviors from other hyenas.”
As the cubs continued to grow, gain weight and meet expected milestones, the animal care team closely monitored the pair and cataloged wounds on the second born cub, which was the smaller of the pair. The team separated that cub from Pili and its sibling long enough to check the wounds and treat them to prevent infection. Officials said long-term separation is not an option for hyenas as they cannot successfully be reintroduced to their clan.
On the evening of November 15, officials said fighting between the pair intensified, and the second born cub attained extensive wounds from which it did not recover.
The Zoo’s Veterinarian and Animal Curator have been in contact with personnel from the Species Survival Program (SSP) throughout the birthing process and first month of their growth and have informed them of the cub’s death. The Hattiesburg Zoo works closely with the SSP because of its role in the hyena breeding program.
“Understandably, our animal care team is quite affected by this loss,” said Rick Taylor, Executive Director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which oversees and manages the Hattiesburg Zoo. “While we understand that these are wild animals and not domesticated pets, it is still difficult when the team loses any animal.”