The impala rut has simmered down now. Most of the adult females will be pregnant, and the rams are finally able to get some rest. Not having to exert all their energies on fighting off rivals and corralling their harems, they will be able to up their vigilance once more, and the ratio of males to females that are taken by predators will even out somewhat.
Many rams didn’t make it through the rut however. And some of them didn’t fall prey to lions or leopards, but to other species. Ranger Guy Brunskill takes us through a sighting he had in which a fighting ram was injured by his opponent, and Africa’s ultimate scavengers were on the scene almost immediately to capitalise:
Ranger Shaun D’Araujo was almost back at camp one evening when he came across two hyenas running fast up the hill. Switching off his engine, Shaun could hear the unmistakeable sound of impalas rutting just over the crest, and knew that that’s what the hyenas would be heading towards.
I was just behind him in my Land Rover with my guests, so sped up to see if there would be any action.
As we arrived we immediately saw that one of the impalas was injured, almost certainly from his fight with the other ram. His front left leg was flopping around at the knee, and the hyenas automatically targeted him.
The two hyenas were circling the impala again and again, both looking for an opening and to tire him out. The poor impala could barely keep spinning around, desperately trying to ward off the two hyenas with his horns. We could see three other hyenas that had been attracted by the commotion, skulking on the edge of the spotlight’s glow.
It couldn’t last for ever and eventually one of the original two hyenas managed to rush in and grab the ram by a back leg. The impala was so exhausted it could hardly put up a fight.
Seeing that it was down, the skulking hyenas came rushing in form the darkness, and mercifully for the stricken antelope, the whole thing was over quickly.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT.
It was difficult to watch, but that’s nature. The hyenas need to eat too, and the impala who had won the fight escaped to be able to breed. Nature rewards the strongest, although in this sighting, the punishment for the weaker impala wasn’t simply losing mating rights; it was death.