Posted by: Andrew Skelton | 18/11/2011

Sticking your neck out.


Spotted Hyena, originally uploaded by http://andrewskelton.net.

Handsome beast isn’t he? Sorry? You don’t like Hyenas? Not even Spotted Hyenas? Well, suit yourself. I know what you mean, though, they always look untrustworthy and shifty, they can’t help it.. it’s the way they’re built.. mind you, they don’t help themselves by skulking around some of the bigger predators after they’ve made a kill, trying their best to get an easy meal. They’re another one of those animals that looks like it’s made up of left over bits, with slender legs that appear disproportionate for their stocky body, a long thick necks atop which sits a rather small head for the general size of the creature they certainly do look odd and as I’ve said before… I like odd.

These animals were on my list of “want to see” before I headed out to Kenya – but having been disappointed when visiting animals in captivity (don’t get me started on Clouded Leopards) I tried to contain any wishes for fear of disappointment. There were other animals and birds on the list, not just Hyenas of course – Jackal, Ground Hornbill, Hippo, Crocodile Verreaux’s Eagle Owl the less obvious of the creatures you’d expect to see. You can imagine my excitement then, when having woken up at some ungodly hour of the morning (or was it still night.. I know it was still pitch black) and got into the back of the jeep still half asleep, our guide nonchalantly informed us that there were 5 hyena in the track in front of us.

The whole experience was only marred by the poor lighting at that time of the morning, the sun had yet to rise above the skyline, so that the photos lacked that certain something that makes images “pop”. I couldn’t really complain though as these hyenas weren’t the first off “The List”. After only ten minutes or so of leaving camp we had managed to see a pair of Bat-ear Foxes, briefly as they disappeared straight down into their burrow when they saw us, followed by, not long after a couple of Jackal. I couldn’t have asked for more, and it was quite an emotional time when I saw the hyena – giddy with the excitement, it got even better when shortly after, with the sun still below the skyline, we were able to see five Kori Bustards.. I was like a kid in a candy shop!

During my research tonight into Hyena (none of which I used), I have two new animals on my list of beasts to photograph, the Striped Hyena and the bizarre looking Brown Hyena. The rarest of the hyena species, these creatures are found exclusively in the southern countries of Africa, including Botswana – the country looking more likely for my next trip abroad. I have found something closer to home that has sparked my interest, something I’ve written about before Barbary Lions. Whilst researching lions for a previous blog, I came across an article about this largest of the lion species, extinct in the wild, and thought to be possibly still present in a number of zoos. Then whilst looking up a couple of wildlife parks in the UK I was amazed to see the Barbary Lion listed as one of their species and knowing the zoo’s reputation I have no reason to doubt their claims. Come the spring, when the light returns, I’ll be heading off for the day (it’s nearer than Dartmoor Zoo which I did in a day, so there’ll be no stopping me).

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