Hyena Boys: Nigerian village where men tame wild animals

A 'Hyena Boy.'  Photo: Courtesy

In the interior parts on Abuja, Nigeria sits a village where wild beasts live amongst villagers like ordinary domestic animals, thanks to a group of men that go by the name, ‘Hyena Boys.’

According to Baba Mohammed, an elder in the village, taming wild animals began with their ancestors and has been passed down from generation to generation as a tradition.

“I saw my father working. I saw what he was doing and I learnt everything from him.”

Training

The mini documentary dubbed The Mysterious Nigerian Men Who Tame Wild Beasts’ shows a group of men walking and ‘playing’ with snakes, baboons and muzzled Hyena’s effortlessly.   

“They call us the ones with baboons, hyena’s and snakes,” Baba Mohammed explains.

Mufasa, Mohammed’s second born son says he has been taming wild animals since he was five years old.

For proper taming, Mufasa explains that hyenas, especially, should be young so that they can grow around familiar faces.

He adds on to say he has been giving his hyena, James, food and medicine since he was young and has gotten used to him.

A child being taught how to play with a snake. Photo: Courtesy

“Since he was little I have been feeding him, giving him meat and medicine and he got used to me,” Mufasa says.

Aisha, Muhammed’s wife also says she has been taming wild beasts for close to eight years now. The couple’s infant son has already started being introduced to the village’s culture.

Catching and taming the animals

According to one of the villagers, catching the animals especially baboons is not a big task for them. They sometimes incorporate traditional medicine to help them do it.

“It’s not a problem for us to catch baboons. We use medicine to help us. We drink the medicine before we go. Then we can enter and catch them. We give the animals the medicine to drink too,” he said.

Abdullahi Barau, ‘the teacher’ as he is popularly referred to is responsible for teaching the villagers how to play with snakes.

Abdullahi Bara plays with a snake. Photo: Courtesy

“I am the head of the snake handlers. I started when I was 10 years old and now I’m 32 years old without a single bite from a snake.”

Benefits that come with taming the animals

It goes without saying that for anyone to risk their lives there has to be a good cause behind it.

For the Hyena Boys, other than honoring tradition, taming wild beasts also acts as a source of income as they sell the animals off.

“We sell them to the rich who keep them in cages for their kids. When their kids see them, they get happy,” says Mufasa.

“Some come to take us away to perform for them”, Muhammed adds.

According to Muhammed, they can earn from as much as Sh310, 000 to Sh827, 000 depending on what they are asked to do.


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