Adventures of our hyena – the highs and unfortunate lows
Tracking the collared hyena on foot via telemetry equipment
Following the excitement of our successful collaring of the wild hyena, our responsibly didn’t end there. We had to quickly track him to make sure he was doing well. The collar has VHF radio transmitter and GPS/satellite tracking ability, so we can see his movements out in the field but also from the office on the computer via Google Earth.
Early in the morning we drove out to the park with the transmitter and aerial and initially tracked him on the vehicle, following the beep with the directional aerial. When we got as close as we could on road, we had to off-road so started tracking on foot. The vegetation was thick so it wasn’t easy, but twenty minutes in we knew we were close and we heard a sudden rustling of leaves and Bob (who was leading us on foot armed with the tracking equipment) got a visual of the hyena as he scampered off in the bush. It was a relief to the team seeing him doing well.
Tracking hyena via Satellite on Google Earth
We had a responsibly to check on the collared hyena out in the field, but we also had the added bonus of being able to track him from a laptop back at the lodge, via satellite. This screenshot shows the points he’d been on Google Earth. We used these points to pinpoint his location to find him on foot.
We noticed he’d been visiting a regular spot outside the Zambezi National Park, and when we went to that location we saw a dead elephant carcass he’d obviously been feeding on. The next day we went back before sunrise to see if we could see him and indeed through the bush using infrared lighting we saw his white eyes shining back at us!
Hyena leads us to a den sight!
He’d been visiting a certain area over the previous few days so we decided to check out whether it was another kill sight. We found lots of activity around the spot we found via a smartphone, hyena prints and scat etc… So we searched the area, and to our delight we found a den sight, which is in essence a few holes in the ground. There was likely to be young ones in there, whilst the adults were out and about.
We made a plan and went back a few days later at about 3pm, and sat and waited for it to cool down and see any action around the den. We kept a fair distance so as to not disturb the den itself.
We sat for over an hour, with the annoying mopani flies buzzing around our faces with no movement. With time and light running out I looked over to Bob who was pointing behind us. I turned to see an adult hyena watching us from behind, seems we’d taken each other by surprise and it let out a few growls. I managed to take a few shots through the thicket before it sneaked off as silently as it sneaked up on us!
As light faded we decided to leave so it could return to the den undisturbed and had to think of our next strategy.
More to follow on this story in the near future…
Cage relocation for next collaring
After the second attempt of catching a hyena, where we had the male lion turn up it was time to move the cage and try fresh location. After some discussions and weighing up the options we opted for a spot further up the Zambezi river deeper into the park. It was an area where our large predator occupancy surveys had brought up lots of hyena activity. We moved the cage, and went about camouflaging it again, we then covered the area with meat inside and out of the cage, set up the camera trap, and returned the next day, but disappointingly all the meat was still there and no action on the camera trap.
So we upped our game and tied a large piece of meat to the truck and towed it towards the nearby dusty roads, which animals always use as a quick and easy way of getting around, this would spread the scent, in the hope it would attract wildlife. Well it certainly did the trick, for when we returned in a few days, the meat was all but gone and the camera traps showed a flurry of activity.
It was an all time record with nine different species captured, and here they are in no particular order!
Black-backed jackal & African civet
The Jackal is a medium sized dog-like omnivore with a bushy tail.
African civet is a mammal that is closely related to weasels and mongooses.
Lion & Elephant
The elephants were not here for the meat, this was just a regular pathway that they used. The lion however was, and although showed interest in the cage he did not go in.
Warthog & Slender mongoose
Warthog – Female warthogs only have 4 teats and each piglet suckles from its “own” teat – no sharing allowed. The mongoose is not a weasel, the meerkat however is a species of mongoose.
Honey badger & Side-striped jackal
Honey badger – one of Africa’s most ferocious animals and have been known to attack lions and buffalo when threatened.
Side-striped jackal – larger and more timid than the more common black-backed jackal produce sound that is similar to the hoot of an owl rather then howling.
This was the species we were after on the camera traps, as you can see they didn’t turn down the chance of a free meal, although there was one piece of meat inside the far end of the cage which was untouched!
The four lions here in Victoria Falls were getting too large for the client walks, so it was time for them to move to Antelope Park, where they would stay in a semi-wild environment. We helped the moving of the lions, which involved darting and carrying them, and an 18 month sub adult male lion is pretty heavy!
These lions had been replaced here by four cubs (4 & 6 months old), which added a certain cuteness factor to the lion walks now. Spending time with these playful cubs is pretty fun.
Prolific bird counts
This week on our bird count we identified an impressive 44 bird species. My favourite part of the route was when we park up next to the Zambezi river, where the birds come into their own. It’s hard to know where to look, flying around us we have Wire-tailed Swallows, White-fronted and Little Bee-eaters, Masked Weaver birds, Red-faced Mousebirds, over the water is a Pied and Giant Kingfisher diving for breakfast! Then there is the huge variety of waders in the shallows, Giant and Little Egrets, African Openbill, African Wattled Lapwing, Black Heron, Green-backed Heron, African Sacred & Hadeda Ibis, Egyptian Geese not bad for one spot! We also took a quick diversion to see an elephant swimming across from an island back to mainland!
It’s great when we get to see the sun rise over the Zambezi river.