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.
Filed under Wildlife
Great video. They actually started eating the Impala when it was still alive.
As intense as this might be to some it is captivating to watch. Thanks for the video James. Its a great time to be in the Bush
Like watching wild dogs … nature in its raw’est form.
Thank you for this amazing episode. Is it usual for impala rams to carry on fighting even after dark when the ruckus is sure to attract predator attention?
James, life is full of surprises! With his leg injured the impala had no chance with hyenas circling him.
Video was illuminating, demonstrating how survival works in the greater food chain. A good meal for the hyenas, mating rights for the winning impala and life continues. Thank you for your continued interesting blogs, capturing moments with other non Big Five animals.
Difficult to watch. I would think it better to go quickly though than battle through life with a painful and broken leg – which would be a much slower and agonizing way to finally die. Wendy M
It’s interesting to read a post about hyenas hunting in the Greater Kruger, they don’t seem to be as active hunters as hyenas in the Kgalagadi, Savuti, Liuwa and the Serengeti/Mara.
I didn’t have the heart to watch the video since someone mentioned it was still alive when the eating began. I haven’t had my morning coffee yet…..lol. Anyway, the impala had no chance with a huge leg injury and no energy to fight. That’s natures way.
Thanks for sharing this news. Happy for the hyenas that they got to eat – they fight so hard for food, and really seem to appreciate every meal. I’ve shared your link to an online space I maintain about spotted hyenas, https://www.quora.com/q/zdhafigwiblrteef. I think some of the language here was too hard on hyenas, who are very different from the way they’re normally portrayed in fiction. Because of their complex female-centered social structure and their beautifully team-coordinated hunts, among other reasons, they are the #1 animal that would make me want to go on safari. The computer programming school I work for seriously discussed choosing the hyena as our mascot for their persistence, teamwork, coordination, intelligence, female-friendly society, and representative alliance-based leadership – which are our values. Spotted hyenas have many compelling characteristics, a spirited and growing fanbase, and are part of the product you’re selling when you sell Londolozi safari tours.
(1) “Africa’s ultimate scavengers were on the scene almost immediately” – yes, but they’re also perhaps the world’s ultimate pack-hunting predators. No other species besides humans can regularly field dozens of individuals who know each other well, all working together. Spotted hyenas are the commonest large predator species in Africa, so might actually kill more prey than lions or leopards. “Many rams…didn’t fall prey to lions or leopards, but to other species” implies that lions and leopards are the main predators and spotted hyenas only pick off a few, which is not true.
(2) “We could see three other hyenas…skulking” – the word choice of “skulking” otherizes the hyenas. Saying the impala was “targeted” by the hyenas who “came rushing in from the darkness” also carries the implication the hyenas are somehow sinister. Hyenas are no more sinister than any other animal, and have complicated social rituals that promote bonding and prevent violence.
(3) I am sorry this hunt was difficult to watch. Some of the commenters also mention that the hyenas began eating while the impala was still alive. However, five hyenas killing their prey by eating it would mean the prey dies quickly – perhaps more quickly than it would if it were suffocated as lions might do. Unlike cats, hyenas are also direct and to the point about what they want from their prey and don’t beat around the bush playing for a long time with wounded and frightened prey that’s still alive. A pack of hyenas can finish an entire impala in a few minutes. This is a win-win situation – hyenas ensuring they are able to eat mean the impala is in pain for a shorter period of time.