Part 2…Hyena Day!…If you think the Big Five is something…How about the “Ridiculous Nine!!!…Day spent in Kruger with friends!

“Hyaenas are mostly social, living in clans of between 10 and 40 animals, led by a dominant female. However, social structures can be quite loose with clan members shifting allegiances, breaking up, and reforming. They are territorial, marking their hunting ground through communal defecation. Their territories vary in size depending on the amount of prey in the vicinity and the number of competing clans. The territory itself is not vigorously defended, but hyaena clans will respond aggressively to other predators moving into their area.”

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

A white-backed vulture.

Each day, over the next week or so, we’ll be highlighting the fabulous sightings of the “Ridiculous Nine” we spotted on safari yesterday in Kruger National Park. Yesterday, we posted photos of the nine beautiful animals, and now, beginning today, we’ll be sharing our photos of the wildlife, one by one, day by day.  

“Hyaenas are capable of short charges of up to 50km/h and can maintain a steady, fast pace in pursuing prey over several kilometers. Their prey usually succumbs to exhaustion and is pulled down and disemboweled by the pack. Hyaena goes for the big game in packs – wildebeest, zebra, kudu, and, very occasionally, buffalo. When they hunt alone, they go for smaller animals such as baboons, guinea fowls, ostriches, snakes, and tortoises.”

As shown, today is hyena day (spelled “hyaenas” in Afrikaans), and these photos are a combination of both mine and Tom’s photos. He took many of today’s great shots.

“The spotted hyaena hunts and scavenges by night and is closely connected in African folklore with the supernatural world. Anyone who has heard the sound of hyaenas in full cry around midnight would understand the animal’s association with the dark arts.”

We’d never seen a hyena in Kruger before yesterday, although they are relatively prolific in the national park.  Undoubtedly, we were all very excited when we spotted them and spent a reasonable period taking many photos. 

“There is no love lost between lions and hyaenas. Each will attack and kill the other’s cubs or elderly or sick individuals. Hyaenas seem far less intimidated by lionesses than by lions and are occasionally bold enough to try to bully lionesses off a kill if there are no males around.”

We found them shortly after we’d completed finding The Big Five, which in itself was quite an accomplishment.  But, from there, magic happened, and over the next few hours, we completed what the rangers and guides call the “Ridiculous Nine.”

“Unlike the honest, authoritarian roar of the lion, which resonates with purity and strength, the “laughing” hyaena’s utterances are hysterical and mocking, an eerie human-like giggling shriek that would not be out of place in a mental asylum. Its body parts command a premium price on the local muthi market, particularly the tail, ears, whiskers, lip, and genitals.”

The name is appropriate in describing how utterly ridiculous the prospect of sighting these nine magnificent animals in one day:

Most of today’s hyena captions are from this site.

The Big Five:  Lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and Cape buffalo
The Ridiculous Nine: Lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and cape buffalo and cheetah, wild dogs, hyena, and the jackal for a total of nine.

“As a general rule, hyaenas hunt more when they are the dominant carnivores in any particular habitat and tend towards scavenging when there are lots of other predators around. They are chancers of note, often taking great risks to snatch meat away from lions and often being mauled to death in the process.”

We were giddy from there when in actuality, we also spotted hippos, crocodiles, wildebeest, giraffes, kudus, impalas, zebras, and many birds included the southern ground hornbill.

“Almost all hyaenas in Kruger are the spotted hyaena. They are found throughout Kruger, and the best places to see them are southwest Okavango, Savuti, and Linyanti. The brown hyaena found in southern Africa’s more arid environments.”

Today is a cloudy day and very cool. However, at the moment, the four of us are seated at the big table on the veranda, everyone chatting endlessly while we wait for one species after another to stop by.  

“Hyaenas are known for their cunning. They reputedly watch the skies for circling vultures to help them locate kills.  They follow the path of least resistance in getting food and, as a result, have become quite ingenious – they’ve been seen trying to scoop out fish at drying water holes during times of drought.”

So far today, we’ve had the following visitors: mongooses, kudu, bushbucks, wildebeests, warthogs, helmeted guineafowl, Frank and The Misses (who, much to our delight, has since reappeared), along with many other birds.

“Spotted hyaenas have the reputation of being scavengers, but studies have shown that, in Kruger, they tend to hunt more than they steal. Indeed, they are the second major group of predators in the Park after the lion, probably accounting for more animal kills than leopard and cheetah combined.”

As for the remainder of the day, it looks as if everyone is entirely content spending the rest of the day on the veranda until around 1700 hours (5:00 pm), when we’ll be getting changed for the evening to head to Jabula for dinner.  

“Although hyaenas sometimes hunt alone, they mostly hunt in packs. They have an almost uncanny ability to seek out the most vulnerable animal in a herd and isolate it from the others. Hyaenas are designed for the long haul, and, as Kruger mammal expert Heike Schutze says, “they are high-stamina hunters relentless in the pursuit of their prey once they have tasted blood.”

We made an early reservation, knowing we’ll enjoy time spent in Jabula’s fantastic bar, mingling with owners Dawn and Leon and any other friendly people we may meet along the way.

“Hyaenas have tremendously powerful jaws, capable of crushing the thigh bone of a buffalo in one movement. If they are hungry, they will gorge themselves, eating up to a third of their weight (15kg) at a single sitting!”

None of the four of us can stop talking about our phenomenal experience on our game drive yesterday. None of us will ever forget this most remarkable experience and having had the opportunity for a once-in-a-lifetime game viewing safari.

Two hyenas were howling in the wind.

In the future, has this experience spoiled us for future visits to Kruger National Park or even safaris in other countries? Perhaps, a little. Our expectations in the future could easily be tarnished after such a spectacular day.

They were sniffing the ground when they’ve picked up a scent.

But, when the visitors came to call this morning, we were no less enthused to see every one of them than we’d ever been in the past. It’s all magical, it’s all breathtaking, and for our visiting friends, Tom and Lois, it’s the stuff great memories are made of.

From this site“The hyaena is a shaggy, untidy and opportunistic carnivore with a distinctive, sloping back. It is a dog family member, weighing around 60 kg (males can be heavier) and standing at about 80 cm at the shoulder.”

Have a memorable day!

Photo from one year ago today, October 13, 2017:
Handmade masks for Halloween and other festivities at the railway museum in Costa Rica. For more photos, please click here.

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