Wild dogs are the elite troops of the bush, Africa’s most successful predator by far. Spotted hyenas are the opportunistic foot soldiers, always looking to score an easy meal. What happens when these two predators cross paths? By Samuel Cox
As any wildlife photographer knows, luck plays a huge factor when out in the bush. For every action-packed day of predator and prey interaction, there are just as many outings when nothing much happens. Yet it takes just a split second for everything to change.
It was a quiet morning in the Greater Kruger National Park area. The sky was a dull grey with a thick blanket of clouds blocking out much of the light. Not ideal for photography, but our vehicle headed to a nearby dam for sunrise. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a lone African wild dog trotted down to the dam’s edge for a quick drink – seemingly oblivious to our vehicle.
We followed it to a nearby impala kill and before long the rest of the pack, another 16 wild dogs in all, swarmed the area. Every bone was stripped near clean within minutes, leaving nothing but a stark reminder of what once was. What an impressive display of their efficiency.
Before long, the smell and commotion drew the attention of other predators and a couple of spotted hyenas started to circle the area. The dogs, having had their fill, for the most part departed. This gave the hyenas the opportunity to dart in and steal the pitiful remains.
Did you know? Hyenas can hear the sounds of other predators feeding kilometres away.
Unexpected turn of events
The dogs, not wanting to fight for the merest of morsels, retreated to the dam to drink and frolic in the cool water. As the dogs played, swam and drank all around us, it seemed the hyenas wanted in on the action.
We watched as the spotted scavengers joined the painted wolves to quench their thirst. Aside from the odd scuffle, the two predator species were co-existing happily in front of our eyes. We were witness to nothing but energetic and joyful behaviour.
Although the sighting lasted just under an hour, it will more than likely remain one of my all-time favourites. The spirit of each predator was on full display and the fingers of my fellow photographers never left their camera shutters. The result is thousands upon thousands of pictures. I will forever relish this once-in-a-lifetime morning in the African bush.
About the photographer
Samuel is a professional wildlife photographer originally from England. He now lives and works in South Africa for African Impact, spearheading a wildlife photography and conservation project in the Greater Kruger area. The project aims to teach and develop the necessary technical and creative skills to be a professional wildlife photographer, whilst using the African bush and its diverse wildlife as a learning sandbox. Follow African Impact on Facebook for more.