Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Spotted Hyena Encounter
Darlington took some Guests into the Addo Elephant National Park (Main Park) earlier this week and had this amazing sighting...12 Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta)in one sighting!! Here is his description:
Early Morning Game Drive
"Waking up very early in the morning for a sunrise game drive can be challenging but sometimes can be a pay off if you are lucky. It happened somehow that our concession was wet so my guests and I had to go across the railway line into the Addo Public Park where there is abundance of elephants and ofcoarse the spotted hyenas which we do not have in Nyathi Concession. Naturally spotted hyenas and brown hyenas occurred in the Eastern Cape but since the starting of the Park in 1931 the spotted Hyenas were reintroduced in 2003 together with the lions as there were no carnivores since the proclamation of the park.
Fortunate enough I happen to be the second vehicle to enter the park and we had a light drizzle but comfortable enough to take photos and watch animals. I have been guiding in Addo Elephant Park for close to 8 years now and I have never seen 12 Spotted Hyenas in one place, little had I known this was my day. It started with one male standing in the middle of the road and with the Addo vegetation you won`t know who is behind the bush, after a few minutes all of a sudden the whole road was covered with them.
Spotted Hyenas are very social animals living in family groups which are normally called clans and its matriarchal position as it is in elephants. Females lead the clans and they always share the same dens. These animals are highly social animals living into a group of up to 15 members even more depending on the availability of food. They mark their territories by anal gland secretion, urine spraying and they have very distinctive dung which normally turns white when it dries out and as animals with strong jaws they are very canning animals just like wild dogs.
Being and experienced guide in Addo I have never seen such a sighting and they are very difficult animals to spot as the vegetation plays it hard for visitors visiting Addo Elephant National Park. The only way to see these animals especially in Addo is to do a very early morning drive and check at the waterholes as they tend to drink very early in the morning before they go to their dens, luckily I happen to see this one and only biggest clan in Addo. According to sources from the last census of their population we have less than 20 individuals in the park so having a chance to see the 12 individuals this morning was such my lucky day so to say.
We also have a few individual Brown Hyena but the sightings of them are very rare the reason being that they are very solitary animals and very nocturnal. As compared to vocal Spotted Hyenas the Brown Hyena is very silent or not very vocal. Even though the Brown Hyenas are known to be seen more in the Kalahari the chances are more that they tend to roam around in places where their distribution does not occur.
I had a very good chance to spend about an hour following their behaviour and social structure from anal secretion to fighting , greeting ceremonies and urine marking. Amongst the clan there was a mixture of young ones and the oldest one I saw there seemed to be a male who had an injured left right leg probably from fighting of he might have got injured from the prey he wanted to attack, their skills in hunting is not that proper as compared to lions which tend to kill their prey before they eat hyenas have got a tendency of eating their prey before it dies as most of their prey die from blood lose. They have got a very strong biting for which is their survival tactic in the bush whereas the lions have got good claws which helps them bring their prey.
While I was watching them they even tried to kill a leopard tortoise which just got hurt on its back leg but managed to secure its head straight in the shell. A lot of people believe that hyenas arte only scavengers but I have personally witnessed them making their own kills and sometimes take kills away from the lions as they take advantage of them moving in big groups.
This was my best spotted Hyena sighting ever since I started guiding in Addo Elephant National Park."
More sightings on the way
By Darlington Chaonwa
This is another group of Guests from River Bend Lodge being Guided by Steve Meihuizen...another of our Guides
(Photographs by Darlington Chaonwa. These Images may not be used without permission)