NAIROBI PARK DIARY

The laughing hyenas

The hysterical sound is actually not because they are having fun. Rather, it signifies a demand.

In Summary

• Hyena sightings in the Nairobi Park are fairly rare but always unique.

A spotted hyena
A spotted hyena
Image: GARETH JONES

Early morning drives through the park are events that have a feeling of the unexpected. Such an event happened near junction No7. We had entered from the east gate.

Suddenly, four hyenas appeared on the road. I immediately stopped and switched off the engine. The hyenas hesitated and observed us for a while, and then slowly moved up the road towards us. They moved off into the long grass for a brief moment and returned to the road behind us, before walking away.

Wow! What a sighting. Hyena sightings in the Nairobi Park are fairly rare but always unique. It has been noted, however, that the hyena population in the park is slowly increasing.

 

Spotted Hyena’s (Latin: Crocuta Crocuta) have a reputation for being scavengers. They play a vital role in nature by cleaning the remains of animals, and, in so doing, reduce the possibilities of diseases.

Sadly, in Nairobi, some of the hyenas wander out of the park and forage for food at night, often with tragic consequences, such as poisoning. Their eerie “Whoop…. Whoop” call is often heard late at night in some residential areas.

In other parts of Africa, hyenas are so bold that they even hunt live animals in packs. They also have a strange, almost repetitive, cackling noise that sounds like a hysterical laugh, especially when they are excited as a pack around a kill or while hunting.

The hysterical laughing sound is actually not because they are having fun. Rather, it is a serious communication to other hyenas that they want something they have, like a bone or piece of meat at a kill.

It always best to expect the unexpected. Rewards will come in time.