Large animals often die in the desert—of thirst, hunger, heat stress, or all three. There are always scavengers, however, to feed off the flesh and crunch the
bones. Of the three main species of hyena, best adapted to very dry habitats is the brown hyena (Hyaena brunnea). Hyenas are much more actively predatory than their popular image would suggest and are ready to snap up small living prey such as insects and mice, raid birds’ nests, and chew fruits and berries. One night, one brown hyena in the Kalahari was observed to remove and cache all 26 eggs from an ostrich nest, which it recovered and ate over the next two days. Creatures of the desert 173 Along the desolate shores of the Namib Desert these omnivores scavenge on dead seabirds, washed-up fish, stranded whales, sick seals, and almost anything else the Atlantic Ocean can throw up—hence its alternative names of beach wolf and strand wolf.
The golden and silverbacked jackals (Canis aureus and C. mesomelas) are doglike predators of dry grasslands and arid scrub. The former ranges around
eastern Europe, North and East Africa, and across to India; the latter is chiefly found in East and South Africa. Like the hyenas, and contrary to popular
opinion, they depend less on scavenging and more on opportunistic hunting for small animals such as rodents and insects, plus foraging for fruits and other
vegetable foods. Jackal family life is remarkably stable. The male and female pair-bond for many years, and the young stay with them for the first few years.
Juveniles from elsewhere may also work their way into the clan so that the pack can hunt cooperatively to bring down larger-hoofed mammals such as gazelles.