WARNING: CONTAINS DISTRESSING IMAGES
Hyenas are largely underrated and often misunderstood predators that operate in clans of 25 or more. Taking the harsh drought of 2015 and 2016 into consideration, the hyena population became, without doubt, one of the most authoritative species in the Timbavati. Given this, along with their complex social organisations, their dominance is not surprising in the African bush.
Lately, there has been a slow, but steady, power shift in the central Timbavati (surrounding Tanda Tula Safari Camp). Recently, the predatory balance has been restored – favouring the lions.
With two prides under their control, the two young Mbiri males have started to stand up and defend their pride. Whilst not yet in their prime, the two lions, along with two Ross females, have claimed back their territories on nightly patrols. By fathering the latest offspring in the reserve, they have contributed largely in taking back their domain.
Chad Cocking and his team recently had a stunning sighting of these lions restoring order and claiming their rank from the hyena clans, proving just how formidable they can be.
Before embarking on their morning safari, Chad’s group heard the roaring of the two Mbiri males, out towards our western boundary. Shortly after, they received an update of the lions having caught a hyena. It turned out to be a rather rewarding sight, seeing the hyenas contemplating the risk of becoming another victim to help a clan member. This was not the first time that hyenas had fallen victim to the lions recently.
A few minutes later, the group arrived on the scene to find a young lion firmly gripping a hyena in his jaws. At first, they thought the hyena was dead, only to see him still breathing and sitting up after the lion stood up and walked off.
They turned to see a bigger male who, until now, had just been laying nearby. The lion slowly got up and inquisitively walked over to the hyena to tend to unfinished business. They were rather surprised that the wounded hyena wasn’t paralysed.
The hyena continued whimpering and squealing. The strong, male lion instinctively pulled the hyena towards himself by lashing out with his large paws. He then grabbed hold of the hyena’s already bleeding throat by clamping down with his powerful jaws. Doing so, the squealing suddenly silenced. The lion gripped on for a little while longer, before finally dropping the dead animal.
This was one of the more difficult sightings to have witnessed. While it is never easy watching something die, it was certainly one of the rarer moments Chad had been privileged enough to experience in the African bush.
As the lion walked off, there was no malice in his demeanour. It was clear that no pleasure had been taken from what has just been done. He did what had been implanted into his DNA.
It was truly the physical decree of what has been sculpted into his nature. The fact that lions and hyenas don’t get along will never change.