In the most unexpected of circumstances, Phelwana Game Lodge met an unusual guest, Crocuta Crocuta... the spotted hyena. Phelwana is not a Big Five game reserve, but we do have Cape Buffaloes, the occasional leopard, and in this case, a rather interesting critter has joined us on the land. According to the tracks, they wander around the property at night and early in the mornings. We always come across the tracks when out for a morning bush walk, which is always intriguing.
Yes, hyenas are frequently observed in the Kruger, but the prospect of having one on our modest property gives me goosebumps, which is why I find myself lost in time pursuing the animal... They say that time is of the essence, but not in the bush. We suspect they have crossed over in search of a den where they may give birth and rear their young.
The spotted hyena weighs between 46 and 79 kg in males and 56 to 80 kg in females, making the females much larger and stronger than the males. Hyenas are matriarchal, which means the clan is led by the oldest female. They are known to feed on garbage dumps and even dig up dead bodies. They are also believed to have the strongest jaws and digestive systems in the savannah bush and can digest just about anything, from carrion to plastic. They are accepted by certain communities in East Africa because they clean up residential waste from the environment. The Maasai leave their dead for the hyena to "remove." (Aardvark to Zebra, Pg 367). Hyenas can smell carrion from 4 kilometers afar, despite having weak eyesight. It is believed that they only scavenge, but they do hunt as well, hunting about 73% of their food.
Some people find hyenas to be strange animals, but we all know that The Lion King is to blame for this enigma. Nevertheless, I'm here to inform you that these magnificent animals clean the earth, as other carnivores only waste about 40% of the carcass. In fact, they can even eat the bones, which produce faeces that are a strange white color. Other creatures, such as leopard tortoises, feed on the excrement owing to the quantity of calcium they emit.
To summarize, remember how important they are anytime you come across them, and remember that not everything you see in movies is accurate. I hope you liked this eye-opener. By Flora Molepo, Phelwana Guide