The Vulture Hyena is a most extraordinary animal. It is a type of animal called a mammavian, a mammal-bird hybrid, which means it has some of the characteristics of a mammal, and some of those of a bird. It is found throughout Africa, like all species of ordinary hyenas and many species of ordinary vultures, though it is primarily found on the African plains, ranging from the Serengeti to South Africa and Botswana. It is seen as a treat to watch by the native Africans, although like so many African animals, it suffers from hunting and habitat loss.
A Vulture Hyena is like a bird in that it has wings and a relatively lightweight body, making it able to fly. Its large wingspan lets it soar in the air, like a vulture, soaring on warm drafts of air, as it searches for its food. Its head and neck are even bald, like a vulture, and it has the kind of beak that is fit for tearing off chunks of dead meat, meaning that it is a scavenger, eating animals that are already dead.
It's also like a mammal in that it gives birth to live young, rather than hatching them from eggs, although their young do not suckle due to their sharp beaks. While their bodies are generally shaped like a bird, they have claw-like "hands" on their wings, and their feet are a cross between mammal paws and bird claws. Young Vulture Hyenas feed off the remains of corpses and carcasses and the blood stored inside them to substitute for milk. Like mammals, Vulture Hyenas live in family groups called clans, and a large female is the matriarch of the clan. Females are larger than males, and the matriarch's oldest female offspring (if she has any) will often kill her younger siblings to ensure that she inherits the role of matriarch next after her mother dies. Males mainly provide for the next generation of the clan, playing their part to reproduce with the females.
The Vulture Hyena is mainly a scavenger because of its relation to vultures, but they can get aggressive and attack living prey, too, like hyenas have been reported to do. Because it is generally larger than many other scavengers, it will even feed on vultures, jackals, hyenas, and other Vulture Hyenas, and it is even known to have attacked humans on a few occasions, although this is usually rare, because despite its enormous size, it naturally fears humans under most circumstances. Nonetheless, these animals have made many people paranoid, and said people have killed seemingly threatening Vulture Hyenas in excess. Hunters who kill for sport have also killed many of them, and some hunters even hunt them for food and experimental medicinal purposes.
While caution is highly recommended around these creatures, they are nonetheless quite beautiful, with their grand wingspan of twelve feet and their mix of colorful bird feathers and mostly brown mammal fur. They also help the other African scavengers leave nothing to waste on the savannah and plains (they can even bite through bone and swallow it like a hyena or a lammergeier). So if you trek through Africa on a photographic safari, make sure to take photos of these magnificent mammavians, but take care not to get too close to them or attract too much attention to yourself, either.