Yesterday you may have read Guy Brunskill’s account of our crazy morning game drive. Below is the remainder of that story…

One of the wild dogs hurriedly feeds on the impala kill before three hyenas ran in and stole the remains. The wild dog is the rarest predator in Southern Africa and an incredibly special thing to see on safari.

In the frenzy, the wild dogs ran off and we sat and watched as two of the hyenas finished the scraps. While the female tried to find any last bit of food, the male seemed to have something else on his mind. I noticed his behaviour was slightly odd but in all the excitement of the morning, I was too distracted to ponder it further. We turned the vehicle around to get a better view of the Mashaba female leopard in the Marula tree, and just then the Flat Rock male chose to make a guest appearance. We spent some time with him as he moved back and forth in the thickets before he looped around and began approaching the Mashaba female. She had a wound on her side from an altercation – probably with another leopard and possibly even with the Flat Rock male – and so she was on edge. As she saw him approaching she shot down the tree and ran off.

10
Mashaba 3:3 Female
2008 - present

The Mashaba female is currently Londolozi’s best known leopard. Her relaxed nature means she is comfortable around the camps and vehicles.

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Mashaba 3:3 Female

Lineage
Sunsetbend
Identification
markings
Timeline
43 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
2 known
Litters
3 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist
 
5
Flat Rock 3:2 Male
2013 - present

A leopard who took advantage of the death of the 4:4 male in 2016 to grab territory to the west of the Londolozi camps.

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17 sightings by Members
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Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Lineage
Unknown
Identification
markings
Timeline
22 stories
Territory
maps
Parents
0 known
Litters
1 known
Offspring
known
Siblings
known
Videos
playlist

We stayed with the Flat Rock male, who was trailing behind the three hyenas. In the process he was so fixated on the hyenas that he walked within two meters of an impala lamb, frozen in panic, without spotting it. The hyenas had now moved out into an open clearing and the reasons for their seemingly strange behaviour became apparent. The male was displaying courtship behaviour. From going years without anyone seeing this behaviour here to it now being witnessed twice in quick succession is rather strange. Watch James Tyrrell’s amazing footage of this from a few days ago. As they say, when it rains it pours.

The pair of hyenas during their first attempt at copulation. Eventually the male mounted the female, explaining the strange behaviour we had witnessed earlier in the sighting.

Spotted hyena males are significantly smaller than the females, which is one of the reasons they are wary to mate. When one considers how long the courtship process is, you realise how incredibly lucky we were to witness this moment.

With female hyenas being larger and more dominant than males, the courting males are unusually timid. Following the females and constantly smelling her urine allows the male to ascertain when she is approaching oestrus. Depending on her receptivity to him, it can take anything from a week up to over a month before he even attempts to mount. We were lucky enough to witness the final stage of the courtship. The male is hesitant to mount as often the female responds aggressively. He approached the female quickly and pawed the ground behind her. This time the female was receptive and so the male rushed in and mounted her.

Mating in spotted hyenas is extremely unique due to many bizarre adaptations to the female’s genitalia. As a result of such high competition within the species, females have evolved to have much higher testosterone levels. These high levels lead to them not only being larger than males but has also brought about the obscurities in their genitalia too. For many years humans believed that hyenas were hermaphrodites. This is not the case, however females do have an appendage that resembles a male’s penis, and to the untrained eye would cause anyone to believe that they are all males.

The female’s pseudo-penis is in fact an enlarged penis-like clitoris, and is formed because of exposure to high androgen levels while in the womb. Difficulty now arises as the pseudo-penis contains the vagina and urethral duct. It therefore makes copulation incredibly difficult. Only at the age of sexual maturity, roughly around three years old, does the opening split from the original 2-3mm to about 15mm. Secondly, the birthing canal is now a lot longer than in other species, which causes complications such as the umbilical cord getting detached before the cubs are fully passed through the canal.

With no distinct breeding season, the females only come into oestrus for very short periods every 1-1.5 years and are normally either carrying or caring for young in between.

The Flat Rock male watches the rare scene with us from the safety of a Marula tree, after being chased by the pair of hyenas. One wonders if this was also his first time watching hyenas mating.

As we watched the hyenas, we would check on the Flat Rock male lying off to the side who was inquisitively watching the antics as well. After a while, he got up and began to approach the pair, who subsequently chased him up a Marula tree. We couldn’t quite believe that our sighting had now materialised into us watching a leopard in a tree twice, as well as watching a pair of hyenas mating in a clearing.

Eventually the pair moved off and the Flat Rock male descended the tree, leaving us to enjoy a cup of coffee and debrief the morning we had just had.

It had been the most incredible morning, with animals seemingly pouring in from every direction, only to be topped off with the most unique and quite frankly bizarre sighting of the lot. It serves as a reminder of how you just never know what a Londolozi safari has in store for you.

Involved Leopards

Mashaba 3:3 Female

Mashaba 3:3 Female

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Flat Rock 3:2 Male

Flat Rock 3:2 Male

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About the Author

Sean Zeederberg

Field Guide

As a young boy growing up on an agricultural farm in Zimbabwe, Sean spent every opportunity entertaining himself outdoors, camping in the local nature reserve and learning about all facets of the natural world. After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental ...

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7 Comments

on What Happens When 3 Leopards, 3 Hyenas and a Pack of Wild Dogs Converge: Part 2

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

Wow! Incredible interaction of the predators. The mating hyenas the biggest surprise. You never know what awaits you in the bush. Something different happening around every corner. Amazing.

Callum Evans

And just when I thought that sighting couldn’t get any better!! That has got to be one for the record books!!! How is it possible to see a leopard, then a wild dog kill, then another leopard and then watch two hyenas mating while watching the second leopard??!!! I’m not sure how you can top that sighting (unless you added a pangolin into the mix)!

Callum Evans

And also the fact that you guys have had two sightings of hyenas mating in quick succession is a feat in itself!!!

Darlene Knott

This is exactly why we live going on safari! Every game Drive is different and no one can predict what might happen! Terrific sightings, great stories to tell! Thanks for two days of exciting news!

Denise Vouri

That was a brilliant report Sean. I learned so much more about hyena behavior, having always wondered about the hermaphroditism theory. You managed to capture some wonderful images of the mating pair as well as the expression on the Flat Rock male’s face.

Michael & Terri Klauber

Sean, What an amazing morning! Between James and you, we are getting everything we would ever need to know about the Hyenas and their mating! Guessing the Flat Rock and Mashaba are connecting too. Can’t wait to get back to Londolozi! Merry Christmas to all!

Wendy Hawkins

Wow there are few words to describe these two sightings, one would be out of this world & the other, amazing! The bush is a never ending bunch of surprises! Thank you guys for these two blogs 🙂 Have a great weekend & a Blessed Happy Christmas to you all in your perfect paradise 🙂

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