Rare footage of leopard and hyena eating side by side
Competition for food is intense amongst apex African predators and there’s usually no love lost between big cats and their opportunistic rivals. In rare footage captured in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, this rivalry was temporarily set aside when a leopard and hyena dined together in relative harmony.
Footage of the unusual encounter was captured in the Mara North Conservancy by safari guide Senior Nchoe who works with Saruni Lodges. In most circumstances, leopards and hyenas are bitter enemies and casualties from clashes between the two species are not unheard of. It’s unclear which of these animals (if either) made the kill, but it appears that both are content to eat without risking injury by battling over possession of the meal.
Leopards are solitary cats so, aside from youngsters that are still under the care of their mothers, they cannot rely on fellow felines to supply a meal. After ambushing and dispatching their prey, these muscular cats typically haul their carcasses into the treetops where they can feast in peace.
Spotted hyenas are notorious kleptoparasites and, although they are accomplished hunters, they will readily snatch a meal from a weaker rival if the opportunity presents itself. In hyena society, meal times are governed by a strict hierarchal structure – the higher the rank, the better the access to fresh food. Young males are typically on the lowest rung of the ladder and must wait until the rest of the clan have gorged themselves before foraging for scraps.
At around two years of age, male spotted hyenas are faced with a choice: stick around in the clan they were born into or head out on their own to find a new group in which to make their mark. A lone hyena, however, must find his own food and perhaps that is what led to the unusual dining arrangement recently filmed in Kenya.
This is not the first time leopards and hyenas have been recorded sharing a carcass. Footage from 2015 shows a similar scene of sharing from South Africa’s Sabi Sand Nature Reserve. A few years later, a clip surfaced at the same reserve of yet another moment of tolerance at a carcass as a leopard and hyena briefly ate together before a second leopard chased them both off:
Our film crews have also been fortunate enough to record a unique alliance between a leopard and a hyena – something that we chronicled in our film Unholy Alliance:
The exact reasons for these peaceful interactions are not known, but it’s likely that in a one-on-one scenario neither animal is keen to risk getting injured in a fight, so age-old rivalries are momentarily abandoned.