Of all the African animals, it seems the poor spotted Hyena has the worst reputation. Various films, like Disney’s The Lion King, and a place in the “Ugly 5” have only made this worse. One of the common defamations is that they are scavengers, stealing most of their food from more honourable species like Lions. Some claims have even been made that they dig up graves in search of human corpses. (Seriously inaccurate.) It’s high time someone stood up for these incredibly social and intelligent beings.
It was a beautiful autumn evening drive and my guests had been so fortunate to have already experienced the excitement of the big 5. I decided to test our luck one more time and take a drive past the currently active Hyena den on the reserve. Hyenas are predominantly nocturnal and so I timed it so that we would get there about half an hour after sunset when they would hopefully be gathered around the den.
About 30 metres from the den I switched off the engine and slowly rolled the game viewer down the sloping road so as not to frighten any potential cubs playing outside. I was so keen to show my guests these fascinating animals that I found myself holding my breath. Then suddenly out of the darkness a very large spotted Hyena appeared. I recognised her as the matriarch by a substantial tear in her right ear. We followed her down the road and were welcomed by the most magnificent sight; two young cubs (pups is also an acceptable term for young Hyena), one sub-adult, that I estimated to be between 6 and 10 months old as well as another adult female Hyena.