Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Hungry Hungry Hyenas

I’d been in the Mara for almost two months, and while I’d seen a myriad of incredible events (check out my last blog post for reference), I had yet to see my beloved hyenas hunting. Was this too rare, I wondered. Would I ever see hyenas hunting?

That’s when I got a call from safariLIVE, who said “your hyenas are hunting a hippo, get over here!” Grad student Julie and I raced to North territory where we saw the last 10 minutes of an epic battle. Our North clan had spotted this young hippo in the early light of dawn, and fought tooth and nail to separate it from its mother. 

Hershey's doesn't mind the spray of cold river water.
They chased the hippo across land and lugga while it struggled to find water deep enough to dissuade our hyenas. What this hippo didn’t expect, however, is that our hyenas can swim. Where’s the Goat, Wallflower, and young Hershey’s bravely waded out deeper and deeper, dedicated to catching their prey, as matriarch Waffles and several of our young cubs watched from the shore.

Wallflower closes in on the hippo. 

We raced alongside, wildly IDing and snapping photos as our hearts pounded. Finally, the hippo had come to a crossroad. Its only option, its only shot, was to cross a wide, bare patch of land into the river on the other side. For a brief moment it would be incredibly vulnerable, but that river was the only spot deep enough to keep the hyenas off.

The hippo heads for deep water, but Where's the Goat is close behind.
We stopped the car and watched with bated breath as the hyenas lined up on either side of this bare patch of land. The hippo took one false start and we gasped... and then it was off! It tore across the land, eyes not wavering from the safe haven of deep water just in front. As though the checkered flag waved, the hyenas leapt forward and raced to catch the hippo. Hershey’s vaulted into the air, teeth snapping…. And the hippo got free! It splashed into the river and moved as quickly as possible, leaving North clan in the waves, and us researchers in astonished silence.

Hershey's and Wallflower getting a quick bite in before the hippo's escape.

Thank you so much to Jamie Paterson and the safariLIVE crew for this tip. 

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