One of the world’s most misunderstood creatures, spotted hyenas have long been considered cowardly scavengers associated with witchcraft. In reality, this carnivore—the most successful hunter in all of Africa—is intelligent and loving, with intricate family bonds that rival those of primates. Not only that, but the species is extremely adaptable, one of the few African predators whose population is expanding. As hyenas continue to grow in number in certain places while species such as cheetahs and lions decline, more scientists are turning their sights on the species, particularly as it comes into closer contact with humans. Spotted hyenas are also notable for their extreme matrilineal societies. Females, which are more aggressive and 10 percent larger than males, control everything about their clan’s activities: from mating to hunting. Cubs inherit the ranks of their mothers; males usually leave their birth clan after a few years, while females tend to stay put and raise their own families. Jen Guyton captures the intimate lives of hyenas utilizing specialized camera equipment including a robotic camera, and writer Christine Dell’Amore teamed up with scientists and wildlife experts to gain a better understanding of how hyenas’ family dynamics and hunting prowess contributes to their population growth.

Artist Bios

  • Jen Guyton

    Jen Guyton is a photographer and ecologist with a passion for telling stories at the junction of global environmental change and human culture. She believes that stories—whether in film, photography, writing, or something else—have the power to persuade and motivate. That makes them crucial for protecting wild places.

    Guyton is a National Geographic Explorer, a 2019 Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, and a Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers. She is represented by Nature Picture Library. Guyton has a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University, which she completed with the help of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Before that, she earned a B.Sc. in conservation and resource studies with an emphasis in communicating conservation in a developing world from the University of California, Berkeley. She spent 10 years traveling and working on wildlife and conservation projects in Africa.

    Her photos have been published in National Geographic, the New York Times, Smithsonian magazine, BBC Wildlife magazine, Audubon magazine, and others, and have been honored in competitions including Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Nature’s Best. Guyton is also a recipient of the UC Berkeley Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement by Young Alumni and the American Society of Mammalogists’ Murie Family Conservation Award.


  • National Geographic

    National Geographic

    Established in 1888, National Geographic is a trusted print and digital publication offering stories that illuminate, inspire, and reveal. Our mission is to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultures, the sciences, and the natural world. We advance that mission by creating visually stunning, richly reported photojournalism and distinguished, impartial coverage of the globe’s most pressing issues. National Geographic (@natgeo) has more than 284 million followers.

  • NYC Parks

    NYC Parks

    NYC Parks is the steward of more than 30,000 acres of land — 14 percent of New York City — including more than 5,000 individual properties ranging from Coney Island Beach and Central Park to community gardens  and Greenstreets. We operate more than 800 athletic fields and nearly 1,000 playgrounds, 1,800 basketball courts, 550 tennis courts, 65 public pools, 51 recreational facilities, 15 nature centers, 14 golf courses, and 14 miles of beaches. We care for 1,200 monuments and 23 historic house museums. We look after 600,000 street trees, and two million more in parks. We are New York City’s principal providers of recreational and athletic facilities and programs. We are home to free concerts, world-class sports events, and cultural festivals.

The Hidden World of Hyenas

 coming soon

Featuring: Jen Guyton

Presented by: National Geographic
  • National Geographic
  • NYC Parks


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