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The following text is an account from a Member who came face to face with a hyena in camp early one morning.

"Dear Ingwelala Management,

After reading your warnings with regards to hyena behavior in the newsletter during our visit the weekend 03.06.2012, I feel I should report and occurrence that happened at 04.h00 on Monday 04.06.2012.

As is our normal behavior we get up early, whereupon I clean up outside the bungalow whilst the rest of the family attends to the inside.

I first cleaned out the braai and the fire pit and then moved the chairs into the bungalow. I returned outside and was busy turning the plastic table upside down to move its legs when a large hyena (I presume female because of size) walked passed on the other side of the retaining wall, (half meter high). I noticed her lips were drawn back and teeth exposed which I found unusual. As she was only 2 -3 m away I clapped my hands and told her to keep going, which she duly did. However, a minute later she appeared diagonally opposite at the braai. She came over the retaining wall and straight towards me. I had removed a plastic leg from the table and so was able to wave it in front of her whist shouting at her. This unfortunately only resulted in her head going down and tail up, and then she come straight for my ankles. I whacked her on the head with the plastic leg whilst retreating to and opening and closing the patio door behind me. Had I not had the plastic leg in my hand, she would have had easy access to me.

With 10-20 seconds of my getting inside the bungalow, two smaller hyenas arrived and proceeded to assault her viciously outside the patio door and up against the retaining wall. This went on for +- 15 minutes where she screamed continually. We managed to video some of this from inside the bungalow door. The hyena stayed locked onto her ear whilst the other one attached other parts of her body which is normal behavior of a hyena. After about 15 minutes the attack stopped when three more hyenas arrived and she managed to make her escape.

Once they had all disappeared we inspected the area, blood and tufts of fur all over, and the smell was awful.

One theory put forward is that she may have been an ousted matriarch due to her physical size, and the fact that her teeth were drawn when she initially passed me was due to fear of the other hyena’s. We have experienced hyenas in the past on probably every occasion we have been coming to Ingwelala for 22 years, a usual clapping of the hands or a movement sends them on their way. They have never been fed at our bungalow, we don’t even allow bones to be thrown into the fire, but rather taken inside and binned accordingly. I thought I would bring this to your attention only as a reminder to members that they are predators and can be unpredictable like all wild animals”.

This is an extremely enlightening experience that undoubtedly provides much food for thought? The closing point that hyenas are top predators cannot be understated.

Interesting facts about spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta):

  • Females are usually heavier than males and can weigh up to 85kgs.
  • Jaws are extremely powerful and together with the teeth configuration this allows for a dense bone crushing bite.
  • Forests are not inhabited as they are unsuitable habitats.
  • Spotted hyenas are water dependant, capable of moving vast distances to drink water.
  • Social structures are matriarchal systems and groupings are known as clans.
  • Territories are vigourasly defended, where fighting to the death can occur.
  • Regular and frequent border patrols are undertaken, scent marking along the perimeters.
  • Scent marking is assisted through anal gland pasting, and from scent glands in paws.
  • Senses (smell, sight and hearing) are highly acute. Carrion can be smelled from several kilometers away.
  • Spotted hyenas can both scavenge and hunt for food, hunting often accounting for the majority of their meals, contrary to the perception they mostly scavenge.
  • Spotted hyenas rely on their extreme stamina when chasing down their prey, being able to maintain speeds of up to 50 kph for 5 kilometres.
  • Top sprint speed is 60 kph.
  • Vultures are observed for clues to locate carcasses.
  • When numbers are in their favour, spotted hyenas can chase lionesses and cubs off a kill.
  • Hunting in an organised fashion and in numbers hugely increases the kill success rate.
  • An individual can consume as much as15 kg meat in a single feed – serious gorging.
  • Regurgitated fur balls and bone fragments, which are called casts, are common.
  • The gestation period is approximately 110 days.
  • At birth the eyes are open.
  • Males reach sexual maturity around two years and females at three years.
  • Spotted hyenas make use of underground dens for raring youngsters. Departure from a den is usually determined by the load of parasites such as fleas.
  • Female cubs are dominant over males, and cubs inherit the social rank of their mothers.
  • Spotted hyenas have many vocal sounds.
  • Individuals call when foraging, advertising their whereabouts to other clan members.


by John Llewellyn