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Counting Spots

By Rosie Miles, Base Manager 3 years ago
Categories Limpopo and KZN

Most nights, here at GVI Karongwe, we fall asleep to the sound of hyena calling but we don’t often get the opportunity to spend time observing them for extended periods, as a result we sometimes lose track of the hyena activity. Recently hyena have been sighted in the northern part of the reserve more frequently than ever before, therefore we thought it was about time we did a bit of a hyena census just to see who is still around and maybe work out which hyena are utilising the northern part of the reserve. When a sick giraffe died we thought this might be the perfect opportunity for us to observe our reserves notorious scavengers making use of the carcass.

We set up 3 camera traps at the carcass, two taking photographs and one with video and we also parked up by the dead giraffe (preferably upwind!) for a couple of hours a day at dawn and dusk, and waited. It wasn’t long before we got what we were wishing for.

Over the course of a few days using our own visual sightings and the photos and videos caught on the camera traps we managed to identify 9 different individual hyena. These included the most recent pup who has already grown exponentially since we first sighted her at the den earlier this year, and the two males Makalali and Darkey who, more often than not, are seen away from the rest of the clan. Using their unique spot patterns the volunteers matched the hyenas we saw with hyena we already have ID kits for, a skill that takes a bit of practise but is greatly satisfying when you make a positive identification.

We are still collecting photographic data of the hyena being seen in the northern parts of the reserve before we can make any conclusions on the current hyena population and movements, but so far everyone is really enjoying spending time with our favourite nocturnal neighbours that are so often heard but not seen.