National Geographic : 1968 Jul
National Geographic, July, 1968 hunting ranges, each clearly marked in the hyena mind, so to speak, but not defined by natural boundaries. The line dividing two clans might run across an open plain. How are these boundaries maintained? Once again we found the answer on a moon lit night by mingling with a hunting clan. In stead of a hunt, we witnessed a war. We had been following a pack from what we had labeled the Clan of the Scratching Rocks, after some rocks near their den where zebra used to come and rub themselves. The pack charged a herd of wildebeest, singled out a cow, and chased her for more than a mile before pulling her down-far from their own range. Soon afterward, Jane and I were surprised when the alarm call unexpectedly sounded. All the Scratching Rocks hyenas jumped away from the kill and stared at a group of newcomers rushing toward them. First there were four of the strangers, then five, then six-all with tails up and manes bristling. The wildebeest carcass was forgot ten as fierce fighting broke out. Hyenas seemed to be everywhere around the Land-Rover, in a storm of snarls, growls, and fangs. I was desperately trying to report the event into a recorder, but soon gave up. My last entry was, "No use trying." On the field of battle there were now about 30 animals in two small armies-hyenas within each group sticking closely together, tails bent forward right over their backs. "There," I said to Jane, "among the new comers-one with marks in the top of its left and the center of its right ear." Jane snapped on her flashlight and thumbed quickly through her notebook. "An old fe male," she said, "from the Lakeside Clan." Then we understood. The Clan of the Scratching Rocks had killed in the range of the Lakeside Clan, and now they were being attacked for violation. The conflict continued for about 15 minutes, with first one side and Sleeping mother makes a soft pillow for her cub. Adult females in the Serengeti were found by the author to weigh as much as 130 pounds-more than their mates-and to rule hyena life. The mother's size helps her guard her young against sometimes cannibalistic fathers. Usually whelped as twins, the black cubs are reared in dens clustered in clan communities. Spots appear in a few months, but hyenas need two years for full growth. They may live to an age of 25. Hyenas laze in the sun (right); one nurses a half-grown off spring, its ear visible in the center. Hyenas love to wallow in water, but even frequent licking with rough tongues fails to improve their unkempt appearance.