In our third week Dr. Norman Monks, CEO of the NGO ALERT, was to come for the week to assist with another attempt to collar a hyena. It is essential Dr. Norman Monks be present as he is qualified to dart and sedate hyenas.
We had a cage set up and camouflaged and had been leaving meat out to attract the hyenas, so it was time to set out as darkness fell. We did a call out, this is where you play loudly on speakers calls of various animals to attract a species to a location. On this occasion we were to use the sounds of an injured buffalo, and hyena cackling. Then it was a waiting game – before long we could see by using night vision binoculars that there was five hyena stiffing around the cage. They also got scent of the meat on our trucks, that were parked 50 metres away, so came around our truck sniffing around which was cool. So, we left them to it, with hopes high for our return to the trap the next morning. The next morning however we arrived to see the cage was shut, but no hyena was in the cage! We checked the camera trap, which had been set on video, and saw lots of hyena activity, including one completely going in the cage, but not grabbing the meat and in turn setting the trap door to shut. It was a mystery why the cage door shut, but we were to try in the same location for one more night.
The second night we returned to check the cage, but no meat had been touched, including the small pieces we had scattered around the area. So, we returned again the next morning with less optimism, but when we arrived the cage door was shut! And this time inside was a hyena! Success!
We sedated the hyena through the cage, waited for him to fall asleep and started the collaring process. It was amazing how calm and relaxed this hyena was, and great for the team to see the animal in no distress.
The priority was to secure the collar on the hyenas neck, so we set about doing this when he was fully sedated.
After that we went about collecting as much data as we could before he came to. We measured his head, body, limbs, canines, and assessed overall condition of the animal. We also determined it’s sex as a male, which without going into too much detail with hyenas is an extremely tricky task!
During this time, to add to the excitement a herd of elephant decided to walk right past the cage, to within ten metres! A couple of us clapped our hands, so announce our presence, and luckily this was enough and they all swiftly moved past, so we could carry on with our data collection!
We waited for the hyena to get to it’s feet and move off! After a successful morning it was time for a coffee and some high fives!
Collaring – take two
With another GPS/Satellite collar left unused and a couple of more days before Dr. Norman Monks was to return home, we decided to relocate the cage and attempt a second collaring. We went through the same drill, but without any activity on the first night. So, we decided to go back earlier on the next day, before dark, so we could call out during sunset. So we took with us a packed dinner and ate al fresco in the bush!
It was another seemingly quiet night, as I was scanned the horizon for the 20th time with the night vision binoculars, but I spotted a large shadow moving! My first instinct told me it was a hyena, but I soon realised I was looking into the eyes of a large male lion! He circled and approached our vehicles to within one metre in search of the source of the hyena callout we’d been playing. He then approached and showed great interest in the cage. We were not after a lion, so we took the initiative and shut the cage ourselves before he went in.
The week had come to a close, and with one collaring it had been a great success. We will hope to try again in the near future. It was now time for some sleep!
Click here to read about the rest of our first three weeks in Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls.