We were having coffee on deck just as it started to get light when we heard the hyenas erupt into their cackles nearby.
Rushing to the vehicle with the guests, we had a good idea of where the calling was coming from, and drove quickly in that direction before stopping to listen once more. Suddenly a hyena ran past us, heading straight for the river. We followed. Meanwhile, Pete Thorpe had found two more hyenas hurrying in the same direction, and we both closed in on Finfoot Crossing in the Sand river, where the eerie whoops could be heard, louder and louder.
No fewer than 12 hyenas were racing around amongst the reeds, their backs steaming in the chilly morning air, and between them could be seen the remains of a male impala carcass that they were jostling around to get prime cuts.
Pete was on the northern bank by this time, and said that in the sand leaving the river were tracks of a pack of wild dogs, who hyenas will often follow in the hopes of stealing one of their kills.
One hyena, slightly bigger than the others, ripped the bulk of the carcass out of the scrimmage and ran away with it in its jaws, with the rest of the clan in hot pursuit. We managed to catch up with them again a little further up the hill, at which point they had stopped to devour the remains of the impala, with the biggest hyena feeding first. The fact that all of the them kept lifting their heads and looking around nervously was almost certain proof that they had robbed the kill, or at least that they knew another predator was nearby.
A little later in the morning ranger Fin Lawlor found a pack of wild dogs a little further north of where we had first found the hyenas, and their tracks had led straight up from the river, so we were positive it was them who the hyenas had robbed.
It was a pity that we had missed the the interaction between the two enemy species, but the bit that we did see was still pretty spectacular, especially given that the clan was vocalising all the way through it, so the morning air was filled with whoops and laughs and squeals. Very often it’s the sounds that the make the sighting…