We all have our own opinions about hyenas…
Some think that they are the most foul things in the world ; conniving, silly and dark (an image enhanced by their portrayal in the Lion King). Others are their biggest fans and preach about the good they do for the health of an ecosystem.
Often operating in clans, it is thought that they developed this social behavior in response to increased pressure from rivals on carcasses, thus forcing them to operate in teams. At Londolozi we have a very healthy population of Spotted Hyena and whether you like them or not one can’t help but acknowledge their entertainment value!
Nights at Londolozi are punctuated with the ‘whooping’ and ‘laughs’ of the hyenas as they communicate over vast distances with each other. These highly intelligent animals are always up to something and leave many shuddering…
The nerve-wracking confrontations between hyena and lion/leopard/wild dogs often creates the most memorable sightings and always leaves me caught on the fence about whether I like the way they operate. They come in with power, force, noise and presence…the one thing they are not is silent and polite!
Another aspect of hyena behaviour which always amazes me is their patience. In my mind they are ‘patience-personnified’ as they sit under a tree waiting for a scrap of meat to fall. As the proverb simply states “Good things come to those who wait“.
Below are some of the photos I have taken of Londolozi’s hyenas over the last 2 years…the love/hate relationship continues!
Two hyena stare out into the distance whilst a third feeds on the carcass of a wildebeest
Chaos is often created at the scenes of kills which are stolen by marauding hyena.
At just a few weeks old hyena cubs are incredibly sweet. Here a little one can be seen sitting on the edge of a termite mound. Spotted hyenas are not seasonal breeders, and can reproduce at any time of the year, though a birth peak does occur during the wet season.
The strength of hyenas never ceases to amaze me. Here a male is seen running off with half an impala in it's jaws. Spotted hyenas have a very powerful bite; thought to be able to generate 40% more pressure in their jaws then a leopard.
A young hyena stares towards the vehicle...eyes that could melt even the hardest of hearts!
An elephant carcass provides plenty of food for the numerous clans found within Londolozi. Hyenas provide an essential role in cleaning up the landscape and preventing the build up of dead bodies, carcases, detritus and decay. Together with the vultures they are the ultimate clean up crew.
Out on a late afternoon patrol
Eternal enemies : Lion warfare takes its toll on the hyena population. Here the 4 Majingilane Males are seen killing an adult hyena. Once killed her body was left soiled in blood. Hyenas cleaned up the mess...
Working themselves into a crazy hysteria hyena clans can be very intimidating and exceptionally entertaining.
Cooling off during the heat of the day. After a successful raid of a leopard kill this clan headed directly for a wallow.
A young hyena pops out of a termite mound that is being used as a den site. The hyena population at Londolozi is very healthy with many termite mounds showing evidence of hyena activity. Spotted hyenas will rest and give birth in dens, which they rarely dig themselves: they will often use the abandoned lairs of warthogs and jackals. A single den can house several females and dozens of cubs at once
For over six hours a clan of hyena followed this sick buffalo calf. Endurance paid off as later that day the adult buffalo were seen but the youngster, who had been frothing at the mouth, was no where to be seen! It really is survival of the fittest out here.
Hyena's antics provide for much entertainment at Londolozi; often this comes at the expense of leopards who are continually battling against hyena in an effort to not have their kills stolen.
A piece of impala provides the perfect meal for a hungry hyena. A single spotted hyena can eat at least 14 kg of meat per meal.
So what is your opinion of the ‘laughing’ hyena? Let me know your thoughts below…
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister