We left camp to go and follow up on reports of a young giraffe with a broken leg from earlier that morning. As we drove out we heard the loud, resonating calls of hyenas in a very similar area to where the carcass was; the excitement and chatter increased as did the speed of our vehicle as we went to investigate why they were all calling. One only had to put two and two together to know what was happening.
On our arrival, vultures littered the dead trees while the hyenas were running around chasing each other and calling; some were lying only meters away from the carcass, very full-bellied, while others were still feeding and squabbling over pieces of meat. It was the first time the guests had ever seen something like this and were speechless at first, just absorbing the surreal sounds of the hyenas in such close proximity. We were sure the sounds of the hyenas were going to attract the likes of other predators at some stage, what we didn’t know is we were going to be led straight in there.


We spent some time watching all the action, after which we decided to move on and see what else we could find. No more than 200 metres away we saw a large journey of giraffe standing and staring straight in the direction of the kill. Tracker Shadrack Mkhabela said straight away that there is a very good chance the young giraffe that died could be the offspring of one of the females. Although giraffe by nature are very inquisitive and will inspect kill sites we both had a feeling that this was different as they had not moved for quite some time.

Giraffe are known to be very inquisitive animals and will often group together and all stare in one direction if there is a threat nearby or walking past in the thicket.

We continued with our drive still talking about how exciting what we had just seen was. It was almost two hours later later when tracker Shadrack Mkhabela stopped me and said that from tracks he could see, a pack of wild dogs had just been running along the road.
Ranger Andrea Sithole and tracker Sersant Sibuyi found the pack dogs about ten minutes later lying up next the the road. It had been a very hot day and the wild dogs are known to rest up during the heat of the day but the afternoon was now drawing to an end as the sun started to set over the Drakensberg mountains. Minutes later all of the dogs ears perked up as they all started looking in the same direction, and then they were up and moving!


We followed them through a drainage line where three of the dogs ran up a termite mound to listen again and scan the surrounding area. We immediately knew the wild dogs had heard the calls of the hyena no more than a kilometer away and were making their way in their direction.

The dogs continued to follow the howling sound of the hyenas in the distance, we now could also hear the high-pitched yelping and howling of the hyena not far away. We always had the intention of returning back to see the giraffe later in the evening to see what remained but we never thought we were going to follow the pack of wild dogs into the sighting.

The hyenas came out running towards the wild dog to meet them before they got to the kill. The clan managed to keep the dogs at bay where they (the dogs) soon lost interest and carried on running off into the bush, but what we didn’t know was the wild dogs were the least of their problems. We heard a loud thud hit the ground! We all turned around to our astonishment to see some of the giraffe standing strong over what remained of the young giraffe, defending it and trying to chase off the giggling and howling hyenas by kicking at them.

We could not believe what was happening; we knew giraffe were inquisitive but to see them fighting off more than 10 hyena was something I never knew they would do to protect a calve that was already half eaten. The giraffe eventually moved off after standing their ground for over an hour, and simply by being patient  the hyenas ended up winning this battle against these towering giants.
The video above left me with two thoughts as we left the hyenas finishing off what remained. 1) wild animals are willing to go to incredible lengths to defend their young and family members, 2) its not always the size that matters in the wild but more so when you group together as one unit you will always be stronger than alone no matter the size difference.

Filed under Video Wildlife

About the Author

Guy Brunskill


Guy grew up in the city of Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal. From a very young age he visited the bush each holiday. It was during these early years that his passion and interest was ignited for this incredible environment. After school he acquired a ...

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on Giraffes Defend Dead Calf From Hyena Clan

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Marinda Drake

Wow! Incredible video footage. Amazing sighting and interaction between the animals.

Sue Dickinson

What an incredible event! I would never have believed this giraffe behaviour!

Cyndy Beardsley

Wow! What a story and the photos and videos are amazing. Thank you.

Denise Vouri

Amazing capture Guy! Who would have guessed that the giraffes would return to the remains of the calf, seemingly to protect it. Just when we think we have figured out animal behavior, something like this occurs. I love these posts as I learn something new most days!

Chelsea Allard

Wow! Is there any evidence as to how the giraffe died? I’m curious if it died naturally of it’s injury or if it was killed because it was an easy target due to the broken leg. I suspect the latter, but would love to hear your thoughts.

Callum Evans

That is incredible!! I know that giraffe mothers will defend their calves with ferocity, but for a whole journey to come to the defence of a dead calf is amazing! Definitely something unique!

Joanne Wadsworth

Large or small, a broken leg for a giraffe can only lead to the inevitable doom. One wonders why the group of giraffes didn’t approach the young one earlier. Perhaps an instinctive knowing that nothing could be done? Wildlife leave so many unanswered questions for us to ponder. In some small way it’s a portion of the intrigue. But standing and scattering the foe over a obvious loss signals, to me at least, that last moment of honor…then life moves on.

Jill Larone

Incredible video Guy! Do you know how the calf broke his leg? It must have been a very interesting sighting!

Malavika Gupta

What a sighting, Guy. The last point you make about the strength in numbers ties in well with an earlier blog. Your fellow ranger wrote about buffalos and empathy. If anyone doubted the possible of animals being empathetic, your video and blog have removed all.

Wendy Hawkins

Wow what an an amazing & tragic sighting that was Guy! I also didn’t know that giraffes would do that, but those hyenas were not giving up – circle of life can be harsh!

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