Context . The spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) lives in remarkably close proximity to humans in the degraded and prey-depleted landscapes in Tigray in northern Ethiopia, predominantly feeding on human organic waste.
Aims . We sought to provide an estimate of spotted hyena abundance at garbage dumps and open agricultural areas across Tigray.
Methods . We used 28 calling stations, including 12 at garbage dumps and 16 in open agricultural areas located in nine randomly selected urban districts across Tigray. We also used 65 randomly placed calling stations in three districts to establish spotted hyena abundance in Tigray. We also collected 610 scat samples during wet (n = 134) and dry season (n = 476) so as to identify diet.
Key results . A total of 398 hyenas responded, including 356 hyenas at garbage dumps and 42 hyenas in open agricultural areas. The response at the garbage dumps was significantly higher. Approximately 2525 hyenas were estimated from 65 calling stations in three districts. There was no statistically significant difference in the diet of hyena between wet and dry seasons for any food item. Frequency occurrence of prey remains of donkeys and cattle were dominant, followed by human, goat and sheep, respectively.
Key conclusions . We infer that a very large hyena population persists in unprotected areas of Tigray in northern Ethiopia, where they concentrate around urban waste dumps at night for scavengeable food resources, mainly originating from slaughterhouse waste of livestock.
Implications . We suggest promotion of nature-based ecotourism of this exceptional coexistence of hyenas and humans in Ethiopia. We raise questions about local hyena social structure, movement, home-range, activity pattern and the implications for human–hyena coexistence.