Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Recent hyena-cheetah shenanigans...

As we've seen from earlier blogposts (see "South hyenas are feeling rowdy" and "Interspecies Encounters") hyenas, as well as being skilled hunters, really like to "mess around" with other species. Even when they're not hungry, their curiosity can still get the best of them and they love to investigate just what their neighboring Mara animals are up to. 

This morning started out like any other, just a bunch of sleepy hyenas at the Main Doc clan's den.
I was just getting ready to put some of my cognition testing apparatus with the hyenas when they all jumped to their feet and bolted to the east. This usually indicates they've heard something exciting going on so we dropped everything and accelerated after them.  

We found five pissed off cheetahs.
These are two hyenas out of the "Five Musketeers": a coalition of five cheetah siblings that have been hanging out in Main Doc Territory. 

The five musketeers had accidentally stumbled into a high density of hyenas less than half a kilometer from the den.

This cheetah did not reciprocate the hyenas' desire for playmates.

These poor guys were just trying to relax as the morning sun came up.

The commotion kept attracting more hyenas who wanted to come check out the cheetahs.

This cheetah did not want any hyenas in its personal space.

The cheetahs attempted to hold their ground and ignore the excited hyenas, but enough was enough.

Cheetahs can run really fast and jump quite gracefully.

The cheetahs eventually found refuge in the lugga.

Pissed off cheetah.

Two hyenas chasing a cheetah into the lugga.

Once the cheetahs had fled uphill into the thicket around the lugga the hyenas were apparently satisfied. 
I'm not totally sure if the hyenas felt like they needed to defend their hunting grounds near the den, if they just wanted to assert their superiority over the cheetahs, or if their high curiosity just led them to investigate, but it didn't take long for the cheetahs to get the message and find a different place for their morning nap. 

Overall, hyena-cheetah conflict is limited; reports suggest that hyenas steal only 9% of cheetah kills. While spotted hyenas are a threat to cheetah cubs, lions are actually the biggest competitor of both species. In areas with less lions, both hyena and cheetah numbers increase, partly due to an increase in juvenile survivorship. Cheetahs also hunt more often during the daytime when other large predators like hyenas and lions are less active which helps minimize conflict. 

Further reading:
Caro, T. (1994). Cheetahs of the Serengeti Plains: group living in an asocial species. University of Chicago Press.

Sarah M. Durant. (2000). Living with the enemy: avoidance of hyenas and lions by cheetahs in the Serengeti, Behavioral Ecology, 11(6), 624–632. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/11.6.624

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