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Nigeria’s hyena men put maligned animals centre stage

KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) – A hyena may not be your average house pet, but in northern Nigeria some men keep the creatures in their homes, display them at festivals and even use their dung or saliva to make remedies.

Abdullahi Jahun comes from a line of hyena men, as they are called. He learnt how to tame and handle a hyena from his father, and now makes a living from touring around northern Nigeria to entertain crowds with his own animal.

“This was my job from when I started walking as a child,” said Jahun during an appearance in the city of Kano. “I used to see my elders do it and became enthusiastic about it.”

Jahun says he captured his hyena two years ago and has taken it to events such as festivals, coronations of traditional rulers, and durbars, a type of parade where horsemen in colourful costumes show off their skills to honour a local emir.

Jahun and his hyena usually appear alongside other street performers such as snake charmers, drummers and dancers.

He allows children to sit on its back, and sometimes he carries a child on his own shoulders and the hyena around his hips at the same time.

Depending on the size of the crowd, he makes between 8,000 and 20,000 naira ($20-$50) per appearance.

Hyenas are often viewed as repulsive and sinister, partly due to their scavenging habits in the wild, but traditional leader Nasiru Wada says hyena men have been part of popular culture in northern Nigeria for many generations.


“It used to be really prolific but not anymore,” he said, adding that hyenas are harder to come by than in the past due to shrinking habitats. “What we have seen now is a dying art.”

Wada acknowledged that the ways of the hyena men may not chime with modern ideas about the treatment of animals, and conservationists have raised questions about how they are captured and kept.

But Yaya Kawu, a farmer, hunter and traditional healer, who lives with a hyena and several snakes in a rural town in Kano State, says his animals are considered part of normal life in his community.

His mud brick compound regularly attracts gaggles of children eager to look at the animals, and neighbours who have just slaughtered a goat sometimes offer him a gift of meat for his hyena.

Kawu sells remedies made from hyena dung, saliva or hair, which he says can help with a range of ailments — even bad behaviour by teenagers.

“Some young people, they get into drugs, alcohol. The parents come to me and I give them a remedy so that everything will be all right,” he said.

PARIS (Reuters) -Lionel Messi said on Wednesday he wanted to power Paris St Germain to their first Champions League trophy, putting the tearful farewell he bade to Barcelona behind him after signing a two-year contract with the deep-pocketed French soccer powerhouse.

Messi joined the star-studded PSG as a free agent after Barcelona, where he begun and always imagined he would play out his career, acknowledged last week they could no longer afford him.

Thousands of PSG fans thronged the side’s Parc des Princes stadium, daring to believe their team would now deliver the Champions League having hoovered up domestic titles since free-spending owners Qatar Sports Investment European arrived in 2011 but always fallen short of European soccer’s top prize.

Messi said he was hungry to add more Champions League titles to the four he won with Barcelona.

“That’s why I am here (to win trophies). It’s an ambitious club,” Messi told a news conference.

After years of failing to get beyond the quarter-finals, PSG finally reached the final in 2020, but lost to Bayern Munich, while last season they went out in the semi-finals.

“My dream is to win another Champions League, and I think this is the ideal place to be to do that,” added Messi, who in a nod to his first squad number in senior football at Barcelona will wear the No. 30 jersey at PSG.

The Argentine conceded he did not know when he would make his debut, having not played since winning the Copa America with his country last month.

“I’m coming back from holiday. I need a bit of a pre-season to get myself going,” he said.


Messi will join former Barca team mate Neymar in Paris.

The Brazilian left Catalonia for the French capital in a world record 222 million euro ($259.94 million) deal in 2017, but never hid his desire to link up with his close friend once again on the pitch.

They will now line up with French Word Cup-winner Kylian Mbappe in a potent front-three attack.

“To play with the likes of Neymar and Mbappe is insane,” Messi continued.

France’s top soccer league has always been perceived as the poorer cousin to top flight leagues in neighbouring England, Germany, Spain and Italy.

PSG’s Qatari money is enabling PSG to compete at their level, though much of the rest of the league is way adrift in terms of resources. In unusual comments praising a club’s transfer dealings, Ligue 1 President Vincent Labrune celebrated Messi’s signing as a big win for French soccer.

“The arrival of Messi will bolster the attractiveness and visibility of our championship across continents,” Labrune said in a statement. He thanked the club’s owners for creating what he called one of sport’s biggest franchises globally.

However, some commentators have asked how PSG could afford to sign Messi within the Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations of European soccer’s governing body, UEFA.

UEFA’s FFP rules are designed to prevent clubs spending more than they earn. Spain’s La Liga’s own FFP rules are more stringent than UEFA’s, with each club given a salary cap they must adhere to.

“We’re always attentive to Financial Fair Play. It’s the first thing we check with the commercial, financial and legal people before signing someone,” PSG chairman and CEO Nasser Al-Khelaifi told the same news conference.


Messi held up his new shirt to thousands of fans outside the stadium, waving shyly as they beat drums, released smoke flares and chanted his name.

Local fan Nelson Dross, 17, told Reuters: “Why do I love him? Because he makes us dream. He’s a magician, a genius.”

Messi wept on Sunday as he told Barcelona fans he was leaving his childhood club.

“I’ll always be thankful to Barca and their fans. I went there as a boy, and we had some good and bad times,” he said on Wednesday.

Asked how he would feel if the time came to square up against his old club, he replied: “It would be nice on the one hand to face them in the Champions League, especially with fans, but on the other strange to go back to my home in another team’s shirt – but that’s football.”

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Topics: Environment
Platforms: Reuters PlatformWorld News Express
Regions & Locations: Africa
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