National Geographic : 1968 Jul
National Geographic, July, 1968 signal when an unseen hyena called out one evening as we were having dinner. That long series of whoo-oops, rising and falling until it ends in a deep, soft growl, is to me one of the most moving and evocative sounds of Africa. I listened until the last syl lable died away. Then another hyena called. "There must be several together," Jane said. "Let's go," I replied. Only a hundred yards from the cabin we found nine hyenas, walking close together with their tails up. They hardly noticed us as our Land-Rover eased in beside them. I switched the lights off. With only the low mutter of the engine, we cruised quietly with the silent hunters. They were obviously at home in that night world. Vast Ngorongoro spread before us, bathed in the cold light of a full moon, the blue crater walls rimming the horizon. A wildebeest grunted in the near distance. "They're not interested in wildebeest to night," I remarked. Jane nodded in agreement: "There are hun dreds around, but the hyenas aren't even looking at them." Bottle baby. Solomon, the author's pet hyer cepts milk from Mrs. Kruuk, whom he seen regard as his mother. The youngster one night fell victim to a cannibalistic adult hyena (pal EKTACHROME BY HANSKRUUK We rolled onward beside the pack for more than an hour. Once they crossed a deep stony gully, and we had to drive a long way around to catch up, a tense chase in the eerie moonlight. The ground began to slope upward sharp ly, and the going became very rough. At the same time the hyenas broke into a faster gait, as if they had scented their quarry. Zebras - Target for Tonight Then the thunder of hoofs rolled through the night, and a dozen zebras galloped down the hillside in a tight formation. The car jolted, bounced, and almost turned over as I fought the wheel to turn quickly on the steep slope. We took up the chase. The hyenas had formed a running arc of flashing teeth behind the small herd; now one zebra dropped back to fight. "It's the stallion," Jane said. "He's going to defend his mares and foals." The stallion kept a short way behind the others, wheeling to bite and kick, leaping from side to side as the hyenas converged. The mares and foals, however, seemed unable to take advantage of his delaying la, ac- tactics; without his leadership they ned to milled about, filling the night with almost high-pitched barking cries. ge 52). At last one hyena broke through N.G.S . the stallion's defense, reached a mare, and clung to her loins with his teeth. She tried to struggle on, but another and then another of the hunting pack sprang from the darkness. Three minutes after she was caught, the mare sank heavily to the ground (preceding pages). In the end there was a throng of 30 hyenas at the scene; within an hour, the calm of the night had returned to the hillside. A bird cried. The swing ing balance of life and death that is primeval Africa seemed to pause, if just for a moment. In time we became familiar enough with the ways of the hyenas to pre dict their quarry. A zebra hunt al ways involved a large pack working as a team. Wildebeests were worked at first by one or two individuals, with the others joining in as the chase progressed. Gazelles were run down by single hyenas, hunting on their own.