"Hyenas might seem like friendly creatures, but you should never, never laugh along with them," says Herbert Anderson, zoo keeper and amateur comedian. "I was trying out my act on 'em during feeding time. I thought I had hit a chord when they all started laughing. I started laughing too and that's when they got mad. I barely got away from them. Lost two of the fingers on my right hand. After that, they had to switch me over to petting zoo duty. I still hear them laughing in my nightmares."
Despite their seemingly jovial demeanor, hyenas are vicious, wild animals. Because of their laughter-like calls and their dog-like appearance, many people believe them to be friendly. Hyenas possess powerful jaws, capable of biting through bone, and their strong digestive system has highly acidic fluids, making them capable of eating and digesting bone. The animals also have a level of intelligence that some say is on par with apes, which makes them all the more dangerous.
"We were in the African savannahs on a fact-finding mission when we were woken by some hyenas laughing out in the dark," says Matt Wallace a globetrotting UFO researcher. "We flipped on the lights to take a look, and the hyenas moved back so we couldn't see them, but we could still hear them. We tried throwing some food out to them, thinking they'd eat it and leave, but that just seemed to make them want to stick around. Then I remembered what the guidebook had said about the hyenas not liking black rope licorice. I hated to give up my stash of it, but we ended up tearing up all the licorice and throwing it out the windows. By morning they had all gone."
It is well documented, but not totally understood, that the scent of black rope licorice will drive away hyenas, much like the way mothballs will deter some animals from entering a garden. It is also documented that if an individual has consumed enough of the candy, so much that the body exudes the licorice scent, that the hyenas will maintain a safe distance if they do not leave entirely.
Among the hyenas' few natural enemies is the lion, and unless they are gathered in a large group, hyenas will usually leave when they believe lions are near. Without actual lions being present, sight and smell make suitable substitutes. If one is near hyenas and fears they will attack, he or she could spread lion musk downwind of the hyenas so they pick up the scent while playing a lion's roar over some a loudspeaker or megaphone. While effective, this tactic is not without its own drawbacks.
"A while back we were on safari as kind of a second honeymoon, and when our tour guide stopped to relieve himself in the bush, we were beset by those horrible hyenas," says Jane Winslow, who holds the record for most on-air calls to QVC in a 24-hour period. "The tour guide came running back to the bus and started sprinkling this awful smelling stuff on the ground, which he later told us was some kind of lion scent, and then he flipped a switch and some speakers began playing these loud roars. The hyenas left pretty quick after that, but then while the tour guide was trying to calm everyone down a group of lions had come, attracted by the noise and the smell."