A female hyena has a drink at the Craig Lockhardt waterhole in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. All is not as it seems when another hyena approaches and changes the scene dramatically. Sue James captures a battle that ensues between the two hyenas.

Sue recounts her experience:

We were first out the gate again at 06:00 and the temperature was already 24 degrees Celsius but the sky was cloudy and overcast. We made a plan to drive straight to Craig Lockhardt and arrived at the waterhole with no other vehicles around.

We sat fascinated as we watched the early morning dash of doves that inevitably make a sprint to the waterhole at dawn and dusk each day, getting in the way of any pictures you may take of other animals. Two giraffe came to drink and were joined by springbok and two red hartebeest. We were about to leave and drive on, when a brown hyena that we believed to be a female appeared from over the dunes at the back of the waterhole and came to drink.

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Heaven – I was so pleased even though the light was poor. At this stage another vehicle joined us and put the hyena off her mission. She began to walk away and we thought that was our lot. This soon changed as the hyena suddenly started to act in a submissive manner. She crouched, wagged her tail, put her ears back, lowered her body and licked her lips. Classic submission. We curiously looked around to see what was causing this behaviour.  Suddenly we realised the reason for her behaviour. A beautiful male approached from the opposite side of the riverbed.

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As he approached the now totally submissive female, she “chattered” and grinned at him. It was apparent she was not yet ready to mate with him and fought hard for her virtue! The male went straight in, displaying complete dominance, his mane erect like a porcupine. He showed no courtship finesse; on the contrary, he was attacking her, bowling her over, grasping her neck and towering over her.

They played this out for several minutes, dust flying and her whimpering but she would not stand or allow him to mount. The male began digging in the sand, as if this would impress the female, without success.

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When they finally parted company she left for the dunes with him following at first, repeating the performance before he gave up and came back to the waterhole to drink. He too then left the scene.

After this, we were breathless, exhausted and completely over-awed at what we had just witnessed. Penni, sitting next to me, was shaking and her heart was pounding. We just kept looking at each other and making shocked exclamations. We could not believe we had been so privileged to witness this.