A little less handsome than lions, yet far more entertaining, are these cackling creatures of the bush: spotted hyena. Ezulwini Game Lodges encountered a clan of Crocuta crocuta on game drive in the Balule Nature Reserve – a bunch of adults plus their cute and fluffy cubs. Fondly known as the ‘laughing hyena’ and characterised as such in the Disney classic, The Lion King, the spotted hyena has a variety of calls and vocalisations, which indicate different things to their clan mates or an opposing clan.
These notorious meat-eaters are in fact the most successful large carnivores in Africa, and can be classified as ‘super predators’ of the African wild. With unbelievable endurance, extremely strong neck and jaws, specially designed teeth, and social structures that are brutal right from birth; it is no wonder that these misunderstood creatures take on lions, and win. Famous documentaries feature the hyenas as the lions’ most feared enemy. Of course, one on one, a hyena would be foolish to take on a lion, but when hyenas outnumber lions, they fearlessly attack the king of the jungle and cheekily steal their meals!
Leopards are even more fearful of the bone-crunching strength of a hyena, and will almost readily give up a heard-earned feast to avoid injury should this thieving predator attack. The female spotted hyena in particular is larger and more dominant than any male in the pack. They pack more testosterone than the males, and they even have a pseudo-penis, making them all the more masculine!