Oldest Known Captive Spotted Hyena Passes Away

The Sacramento Zoo’s Spotted Hyena, and the oldest known hyena in a United States Zoo, passed away in her sleep last night. Brownie, as she was affectionately called by Zoo staff, had been under treatment for a variety of age-related illnesses. Veterinarians and keepers had been keeping an eye on her because of her age, but did not notice anything unusual yesterday. She spent much of the afternoon sunning in her exhibit, ate her dinner and went to sleep. She surpassed all expectations, living to the age of 28.

Brownie was born in Kenya and shortly after was brought to U.C. Berkeley as part of a research program. She moved to the Sacramento Zoo in 1995 with a female companion from U.C. Berkley who passed away in 2006. Hyenas are matriarchal and very hierarchal, making it difficult to introduce new companions without significant stress. In order to fulfill her social needs keepers spent a lot of time interacting with her through protected contact training programs. Keepers also monitored closely her weight and became very creative in food variety and presentation. While at U.C. Berkley, artists from Disney studied Brownie and her sister as models for Disney’s movie “The Lion King.”

“Because hyenas are highly nocturnal, it was always a special treat for visitors when they got to see Brownie,” said Harrison Edell, General Curator at the Sacramento Zoo. “Brownie was a unique individual who lived a long life; her passing deeply affects visitors, volunteers and staff alike.”
Brownie was the oldest Spotted Hyena known in captivity in the United States.

Spotted Hyenas, also known as Laughing Hyenas, come from African grasslands, savannas and plains. They live in matriarchal clans and are highly territorial. They have many vocal behaviors ranging from whoops, barks, groans, yells, grunts and whines. In the wild they live 10-12 years while in captivity they can live from 20-25 years.
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