Abdullahi Ahmadu was 15 years old when he joined his father’s business in the small town of Malumfashi in Katsina State, Nigeria. This meant that he had to acquire his own hyena, as his family made their living as entertainers accompanied by hyenas, snakes and monkeys, in addition to selling the fetishes and herbal medicines that are popular in Nigeria. Abdullahi’s grandfather, Nalado Ahmadu, taught him how to catch and control the animals, and introduced him to the charms that help subdue the creatures and protect their captors from harm.
Today Abdullahi is an experienced animal handler in his early thirties, who travels across Nigeria as part of a troupe of entertainers including his younger brother, Yahaya, and other members of his extended family. Together they work with three hyenas, two rock pythons and four baboons. According to Abdullahi, this is a tradition exclusive to his family, and only they are taught the secrets of how to trap and take care of the creatures.