Lucky escape: Lioness lets brown hyena off the hook (video)
Brown hyenas are secretive creatures. They prefer to forage alone under the cover of darkness and, although they are the most abundant predators in some areas like the arid Kgalagadi, they remain elusive. So you can imagine the surprise of Jordan Davidson – senior trails guide at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in South Africa’s Klein Karoo – when he received word that a lioness had been spotted stalking one of these hirsute scavengers in broad daylight.
Davidson was on safari with a group of guests when a fellow guide radioed in the unusual sighting. “We were a few minutes’ drive away, and my initial thought was that we’re going to miss the action,” Davidson told Latest Sightings. “As we approached the area, we spotted the lioness stalking through the khanna bushes on a deeply eroded channel. Further south along the opposite channel we saw the hyena sniffing, walking, and foraging. It had no idea that the lioness was nearby!”
Hyenas aren’t typical prey for lions, but the big cats will readily stalk and even kill hyenas, either opportunistically or in a concerted effort to eliminate any predatory competition. This particular lioness is around five or six years old and is a loner, unattached to any particular pride. I’s unclear what her intentions were when approaching the hyena, but it’s possible her behaviour was a mixture of curiosity, playfulness and an actual eagerness to dispatch the rival predator.
The frigid morning air and overcast conditions help explain why the normally nocturnal brown hyena was out foraging in the daylight hours. “I quickly managed to pull up alongside to where the hyena was situated and waited. It didn’t take long for the action to unfold,” Davidson recalls. From some distance away, the lioness stalked closer. Eventually, she committed to a charge, sending the hyena scuttling in the opposite direction while sounding a slew of distressed wails.
Strangely, the lioness abandoned the hunt as soon as she got close enough to take the hyena down. “She was possibly in a playful mood,” Davidson guesses. “Or the hyena’s strange noises put her off; or it could even have been that the long fur allowed the hyena to slip through her claws and confuse[d] her.”
Whatever the reason, the hyena lived to forage another day and the lion provided Davidson and his guests with a thrilling encounter.