Hyenas are very curious about other species, this much is clear. Below is a photo of a hyena investigating a marabou stork, a large scavenging bird that I like to think of as “hands down the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The next photos are of a group of hyenas we saw this morning, all very curious about a sleeping buffalo. Since they’ve certainly seen buffalo before, it seemed like they were playing a game of chicken, daring each other to see who could get the closest. Although these games are usually played by the cubs and subadults, a couple adults were even getting in on the action today. It was pretty hilarious: they’d tiptoe closer and closer, and if the buffalo even twitched its tail they would all freak out and back off. Then they’d get their courage up again and the game would repeat. Truthfully, I’m not sure the buffalo was even aware that it was involved in the game, since it was facing the other direction.
But that game paled in comparison to one we saw a couple weeks ago between a teenage hyena and an adult jackal. When we arrived, the hyena was chasing the jackal, which seemed strange since jackals are not typical hyena prey. But then we realized it was just a game—the hyena was chasing the jackal round and round a big bush (which begs the question, who really was chasing whom?). Our initial impression was that this was great fun for the hyena, but not so much for the traumatized jackal. Oh how wrong we were—the hyena stopped to catch its breath for a moment, and the jackal stood, looked at it, then ran it it teasingly and darted away at the last second, just like my dog does when he wants me to chase him. The jackal did this a few times until the hyena acquiesced and the game resumed around the bush. At one point they even switched directions mid-chase without breaking a stride. Sadly, it was too dark to get any photos or videos, but I think you get the idea.
This last photo is of a stand-off between an adult hyena and a wildebeest. They stood staring at each other like this for several minutes before going their separate ways, no love lost.