Dusk is falling on the old walled city of Harar and the still air is broken only by an occasional, chilling howl. In the semi-darkness, five hungry hyenas circle a young man crouched on the ground. Their bat-like ears flick back and forth in greedy expectation while their jaws flex to reveal a snarl of teeth. It’s feeding time.
But while spotted hyenas are known throughout the world to be vicious scavengers, in this small Ethiopian city, its habitants are not afraid. The young man draws a chunk of meat from his basket and dangles it in the air. Instead of leaping to attack, one hyena comes forward and takes it right out of his hands, with the poise of a domesticated dog.
Abbas Yusuf, known as the Hyena Man, learned to feed these wild animals from his father, Yusuf Mume Salleh, who used to throw them scraps to lure them away from his livestock. Years later, the tradition lives on and though it has become a popular tourist attraction, this remarkable relationship between man and beast runs deep.