This was a very tense and stressful scene for me! I’d noticed some hyenas mooching around in that ‘nothing to see here’ fashion, which with hyenas invariably means there certainly is something to see – be it a leopard up a tree protecting its kill or pre-hunt tactics in play.
Nearby a family of giraffes were walking across the plains, with their brand new baby in tow. The little calf still had its drying umbilical cord attached. Some of the hyenas started trailing the family. When the giraffes stopped to rest the clan members flopped down in a wide circle and pretended to nap. They had that ‘a hunt couldn’t be further from our minds’ demeanour about them, but this was a very calculated, orchestrated and passive-aggressive state. As much as I feared for the calf’s life I had to admire the hyenas – their intelligence and malevolence is quite marvellous.
But, I’m relieved to say, the giraffes held their nerves. If things got a bit too tense the towering father would close ranks on his family and the hyenas would back off. The mother did an excellent job of shadowing her little one and keeping it close to her side. Eventually the hyenas slunk off to go and find some water or somethng better to do with their time.
I was delighted to see the calf and its family on subsequent mornings, all healthy and happy. Hyenas will attack and kill giraffe calves but it seems to be when a calf is injured during the birthing process or is born with a disease or defect. In this way hyenas do an excellent job of ensuring survival of only the fittest, amongst other benefits for the environment. The little calf in this story was strong, healthy and had a great family to look after it too.