Steve Pope Safaris

Semi-participatory Camping, Bushwalking, & Canoe Safaris

The Impact of Hyaena on Lion Populations

in the Zambezi Valley 

Compiled by Steve Pope

Review by Rowan Martin

August 2010

Having read the background document to this proposed research (The Impact of Hyaena on

Lion Populations in the Zambezi Valley – Steve Pope), I get the impression that the author feels he

has answered all the research questions. In which case, it is valid to ask whether any research

is needed ?

The author has argued that –

– hyaena numbers are unnaturally high as result of past management operations in the

Zambezi Valley and present human influences which provide hyaena with ‘easy food’;

– as a result of this, hyaena numbers have irrupted and they are able to dominate the lion

population;

– by robbing lions of their kills and killing cubs, hyaenas are causing lion numbers to decline;

– the situation is ‘unnatural’ and justifies management intervention (i.e. reducing hyaena

numbers to allow lion numbers to increase).

I question a large amount of the argumentation, the simplistic 

Research Activities

1) The highest priority is to establish present lion and hyaena densities. This is the benchmark

against which all future management actions have to evaluated.

2) The first reduction in hyaena numbers should follow once the census is producing repeatable

and reliable results. The reduction should take place over as short a time period as possible

and the new hyaena density should be measured as soon as the reductions are completed.

3) The next reduction in hyaena numbers can take place as soon as lion densities have shown

a measurable response to the first reduction. This process should be followed for all further

reductions. Hopefully, at some much reduced density of hyaena the lion population will no

longer respond to further reductions in hyaena numbers.

My observations of the lion and hyaena populations in Mana Pools since 1982

INTRODUCTION

 

       Since the 1970`s there have been some dramatic animal population fluctuations in world-renowned game regions. These include predator population crashes; brief explosion of prey numbers and unnatural establishment of large hyaena clans to the extent that, in some regions, they have changed their habit from scavenging to predation and thereby profoundly affected predator and prey populations. This study reveals these fluctuations and shows that they are a direct result of human influence through culling, poaching, hunting and through food available to animals from camps.    

A BRIEF HISTORY of MANA   POOLS 

Although Mana Pools is a protected area Impala were culled every year from 1969 until 1973, when the pre - independence hostilities prevented further population reduction operations.  By 1980 there was a balance between prey and predator, so that no culling of impala was necessary. This balance lasted until 1989, when the predator populations crashed and the Impala population exploded, which coincides with the large clans of Hyaena becoming dominant.

 FLUCTUATIONS IN LION AND HYAENA NUMBERS                 

Animal population sizes are directly related and proportional to their food supply. An increase in food supply will often mean an increase in that animal population. 

Mr. Vivian Wilson, in his book  “Lions, Leopards and Lynxes” (published in 1981), states that “ As a result of extensive culling of impala, wildebeest and elephant in the Wankie National Park the Hyaena population had increased tremendously and they were completely unafraid of humans and, for that matter, even of lions.” After mentioning that he had worked extensively in both the Luangwa Valley and Wankie he says, “The spotted Hyaena in the Wankie National Park would be one of the main predators of Lion cubs.”   

Richard Harland notes in “African Epic” ( the story of Paul Grobler) that “During the years of the  ₤1 licence system,(1940s and 1950s) government officials were concerned about the possibility of lions, leopards, hyenas and jackals building up their populations if provided with large quantities of easy pickings and instructed  hunters that they must burn all unused animal parts. So Paul’s teams would pile up bones, hides and offal, cover them with the timber used for the drying racks and set the pyres on fire before leaving the site. 

In the July 1992 National Geographic, Mr. M G Hornocker, gives an account of his 10-year study of mountain Lion. In it he states that a mountain lion’s territory is determined by the food supply. This means that the more abundant the prey animals, the smaller the territory. This explains the density of the predator population on the Mana flood plain up to 1989, but raises the question:  where were the predators in 1992 when the impala were so numerous that 5,000 were culled? In a letter dated 23 September 1992, Mr. Rob Shattock states that in 5 safaris totaling 35 days he had one sighting of Lion, but recorded Hyaena in numbers of 11/6/5/9/4.  He also states that in 1991 he saw no Lion at all.  

Mr. Hornocker also states that food supply; hunting and weather determine Deer and Elk numbers. 

His findings demonstrate that an animal population size is relative to food supply

 in regard to: – 

1) The healthy predator population on the Mana Pools River Terraces up to 1989, their main food source being Impala.

 (K M Dunham J. Zool., Lond. (1992) 227 (330-333).) 

2) The increase in Hyaena population after the culling of 4000 Elephant in the Zambezi Valley –14,7 per day in the vicinity of the Mana River Terraces (Kevin Dunham – Senior Ecologist in Mana Pools from 1981 to 1989) 

3) The fact that there were so many Impala in 1992 was because the food source could support them.  

4) It is valid to ask what happened to the lion population with such an abundance of prey. The answer may be that their numbers were affected by hyaena pressure through cub mortality caused by predation and deprivation of food. 

During the 1980s Lion were plentiful on the Mana flood plain: - 

·             “The ecologist in charge of Mana Pools wrote and asked me for my impressions and memories of better times in Mana. The following is my version of what it was.

In my day there were no scientists in the Zambezi valley. There was however a balance between man, beast and vegetation. The local people were then removed because of the building of Kariba dam. With their removal the fires that regularly took place almost ceased, added to which the authorities banned burning altogether.

I remember Mana and the whole valley as being very well grassed and one could not wander around with impunity due to the large number of lions. There were lions wherever there was water and game. One could walk into two or three prides in a day even at the base of the escarpment. The hyenas were conspicuous by their absence. On one occasion I shot six bull elephant in heavy vegetation but after six days, when I arrived to pull the ivory, I saw only two hyena which had been feeding on the carcasses. There was a particular concentration of lions around Long Pool and I noticed that some of them spent their time in the adjoining Mopani shelf (about 16- 20 in the pride). Some lions we knew by sight as they had visited close to Rukomeshe where Chief Dandawa stayed and from then on downwards were the great herds of eland and buffalo. As a matter of interest we slept on the higher part of Chikwenya island and the north bank where I could get a good nights rest from the game concentrations and of course lions. We sometimes heard hyenas calling and packs of wild dogs.

The hyenas habitually slunk around native villages but they were not very numerous. However along the Chirundu road for five miles either side there was a tsetse fly hunting corridor which included the evergreen Chipandhauri swamps.

Because of game wounded by the farmers there were large packs of hyena particularly behind Chirundu hill at Chief Mudzeemos. As a matter of interest there was a large pack of hyena at Nyamomba where Mrs. Wordels husband was doing experimental drilling in the gorge to find a dam site. They became such a nuisance killing all her poultry. They were elusive and unseen so I poisoned at least 20 of them. These packs were established because of the hunting in the tsetse corridor along the Chirundu road. 

 Then came the construction of the dam wall. And very much later the scientific theories evolved resulting in the culling and the imbalances we are aware of today.

Now as then I am still fully unaware of how and why these decisions were made especially considering the culling was excessive.  In the long term what did they save?

 It was not just the valley that used to burn but the savannah country as well – you could sometimes see the whole length of the escarpment on both sides of the valley glowing. These fires were lit by the villagers who feared that the dense cover gave lions hiding opportunity. These fires were especially noticeable along the footpaths between the villages – they were fanned by the August winds and the air currents as you know always come up the Zambezi river. In most wilderness areas the vegetation has got to be hammered. We all know that the dam wall must have had an effect on all the flood plains but if you care to go into history you will realise even hundreds of years before our occupation that Africa was regularly put to the torch, in fact the middle Zambezi valley was known to the Portuguese as Tierra del Fume – land of smoke. Read “The Months of the Sun” – chapter 12 – page 157 to 160I hope this information will be of some value to you.” 

Ian Nyschens (2006) 

·       Kevin Dunham was the senior ecologist in Mana during the 1980s. With reference to Dunham, K.M. (1994). “The effect of drought on the large mammal populations of Zambezi riverine woodlands. Journal of Zoology, London. Volume 234, pages 489-526” he wrote in an email –“Each October from 1981 to 1989, I conducted road strip counts of the large herbivores in the riverine woodlands at Mana
(largely between Vundu and Mana Mouth) and I also recorded all
predators seen during these surveys. I calculated the average density
of lions in the riverine woodlands during the years 1981-1989.
Transect methods (e.g. road strip counts) are not often used to
estimate predator densities, but there is no scientific objection
to using them, so long as the study animal does not avoid the
transect lines. The average density of lions in the Mana riverine woodlands
in October during the 1980s was 0.09 lions per square kilometre,
equivalent to 9 lions per 100 square kilometres. This average was
based on both early morning and late afternoon surveys, but
further analysis revealed that lion density was much greater
during the morning (0.15 lions per square kilometre) than during
the afternoon (0.02 lions per square kilometre). It is probable
that nocturnal predators such as lions moved out of the riverine
woodlands during the day, to seek secluded resting places in
patches of thicket, and returned to the riverine woodlands at
dusk”.  NB The density was 15 per 100 square kilometres on the morning counts. Mr. Monk’s current radio collar telemetry survey only finds a density of 7,2 – 8,1 per 100 square km (Monks “The Debate Continues” August to October 2004 issue of Zimbabwe Wildlife.) 

·       From 1983 until 1989 Chipembere Safaris only had two safaris on which they failed to find Lion. 

In 1990 there were two safaris with no Lion. From then on they were lucky to find Lion at all during a 4 - day safari.  

·       In 1992 the animal sightings logbook kept at Nyamepi Office shows periods of up to 10 days with no record of Lion sightings. These recordings were from all visitors to the Park. The implication being that in a 10-day period there had not been any Lion sighting by any visitor is quite disturbing. A study of the log book showed that reports of Lion in 1992 had dropped to nearly 25% of reports in 1991: 

MAY 1991 – 57                  1992 – 29

JUNE 1991 – 71                1992 – 16

JULY 1991 – 77                 1992 – 17 

The Hyaena population increased in the late 1980s due to human influence; i.e. abundant unnatural food supplies and the Lion population decreased due to Hyaena pressure: 

·       In1985, 4,000 Elephant were culled in the Zambezi Valley. During the month of June 350 Elephant were shot in the vicinity of the river terraces in a failed attempt to regenerate Acacia Albida growth. This amounted to an average cull rate of 14.7 Elephant per day. This is what initiated the increase in Hyaena numbers. Lion only benefited from the Elephant cull during the period of the cull in June while Hyaena, as scavengers with a highly developed digestive system (Estes “Safari Companion”) and powerful jaws, were able to feed on the remains for months after. 

·      Another unnatural food source which sustained the increase in the Hyaena populations during subsequent years was the availability of food from dustbins at all the camps, plus cooler bags full of meat, often stolen from camp sites, especially at Nyamepi. Mr. John Northcotte (pers. comm.) said of his observations in Botswana that in the Savuti region the numerous safari camps provide an endless supply of food to the Hyaena.                                   

·       Another abundant and regular source of food for the Hyaena was from canoe safari operations. Almost daily canoe safaris would arrive at Nyamepi and off load the rubbish from a 4-day safari consisting of 10 clients. This would be left in the bins and transferred to the open pit rubbish dump, which the Hyaena subsequently fed on. 

·       Another contributory source of food was from tourists feeding Hyaena for photographic opportunities and their own entertainment.  

·       In an email letter to Dr. Sarel van der Merwe dated 2nd of June 2003 Mr. Monks wrote that – “There are concentrations of hyaenas on the floodplain especially around the campsite.  Nettie’s work shows that there are hyaenas in the dry “jesse bush” area (where 36% of prey species are found) but, again, the numbers are not in the high range.  The development area concentrations are probably a function of the food source in the camp, around houses and on the dumps, but this is not indicative of the whole of Mana obviously.  I have seen hyaena waiting around the campsite at night waiting to raid tourist cool boxes etc.  Of course there will be a large number of hyaena where there is easy to get food – the honey badgers, the baboons and the monkeys also take advantage of this “meal on wheels” service”.   

·       “At the main campsite in Mana there is a locally heavy population of hyaena due to tourists actively or passively feeding the hyaena. This is not a normal situation -------.” Norman Monks “The Debate Continues-----“ Wildlife Zimbabwe  WEZ Magazine August to November 2004.  IT IS THIS LOCALLY HEAVY POPULATION OF HYAENA ATTRACTED TO THE MAIN CAMPSITE THAT HAS IMPACTED ON THE FLOOD PLAIN LION POPULATION

·       Once the Hyaena numbers were high enough for them to dominate and steal fresh predator kills, Hyaena food availability was greatly increased. A photograph taken in 1988 by Mr. Pat Kelly shows 11 Hyaena mobbing a male lion during the take over of a zebra kill by 21 Hyaena from a pride of 10 Lion. In this situation of stealing of food from Lion by Hyaena the Lion are deprived of food so the imbalance between species is compounded. 

These sources of food all served to concentrate Hyaena clans on the river terraces. The increased Hyaena numbers enabled them to dominate prides of Lion and kleptoparasitise their kills thereby negatively impacting the Lion population.        

  Once the large Hyaena clans had become established, they became self-sufficient predators adopting the same tactics as Wild Dog when they hunt.                                                                                   

            The problem is compounded by the fact that to ensure the survival of the species in a normal situation, the Lion and prey populations balance themselves.  Abundant food ensures cub survival, but poor food supply results in cub mortality, as they have to compete with adults at kills. This reduces predator pressure on the prey species. However the Hyaena ensure their survival as a scavenging species by feeding their cubs in a den. This means that if an abnormal situation prevails where Hyaena packs deprive Lion of their kills then Lion cub mortality accelerates and the Lion population crashes. In these circumstances the Hyaena population explodes. This social den habit of Hyaena means that their pups are protected from Lion. Lion cubs, however, are more vulnerable to predation by an unnaturally high population of Hyaena for the first six weeks of their lives with their mother, before they are old enough to be introduced to the pride. When they have joined the pride and while they are suckling the cubs are reasonably safe from Hyaena influence. When they are weaned they have difficulty competing at kills with the adult Lion in a normal situation. The cubs may not feed at all if the kills are stolen. Cub mortality in these circumstances can be 100%. Another aspect decreasing Lion numbers may simply be that they leave the River Terraces because of the continual harassment by Hyaena at kills.          

           In a scientific report by Dr. S Cooper, in the African Journal of Ecology 1991, Volume 29, she notes that the Hyaena would begin mobbing the Lion when they outnumbered them by a factor of two. To effect a complete takeover of the kill, the Hyaena had to outnumber the Lion by a factor of four. In another study Dr. Cooper shows that Hyaena to Lion ratios are 3 – 1 in Mana Pools and 6 – 1 in Botswana. There are indications that at Chitake Spring in Mana Pools national park the ratio is only 1 Hyaena to 3 Lion. 

      In Mr. Keith Begg’s letter of 30 May 1995, he mentions that Colleen Zank found that in the course of her Matusadona Cheetah study, there is a very high density of Lion (prides of 10 – 20) and comparatively far fewer Hyaena. It has been noted that in Matusadona Buffalo skeletons are intact, whereas in Mana after a few days all that can be found is the skull.

 Matusadona and Chitake Spring should be regarded as norms, as they both have healthy lion populations. The Hyaena at Chitake Spring remain in a scavenging role in low numbers (never more than 7 having been seen), so that they are no threat to the lion. Indications are that the ratio here is 3 Lion to 1 Hyaena while the ratio on the Mana River Terraces is only 1 Lion to 3 Hyaena. Chitake Spring is an isolated ecosystem in Mana Pools National Park 50 kilometers from the Mana River Terraces near the foothills of the Zambezi Escarpment. The ecosystems of Chitake and the Terraces are similar in habitat with riverine, thickets, open woodland and plains in both regions. They are also similar in prey density with peak concentrations in the late dry season months of August, September and October and the prey species dispersing during the rains. The two ecosystems are also central and equidistant from hunting areas. In a document describing Mr. Monk’s study he says that the Lion in Mana are not influenced by the hunting concessions. The only difference between the twolocalities is the culling of Elephant and Impala at the Terraces and the food available from camps and lodges. 

Hyaena/Lion incident – Mana Pools June 1994   recorded   by   Mr.   Miles   Bennet: 

“Towards the end of June myself and seven others stayed in one of the Mana Pools National Parks lodges for four nights. Game viewing was generally good with the exception of Lion. The warden told us that the week before we arrived four Lion had killed a Buffalo between the lodges and the warden’s office – but within an hour of them killing it, had been chased off by at least 20 Hyaena.  Despite numerous game drives we did not see any sign of Lion. 

On our last day, at approximately 06.1 5hrs on the circular road near the eastern end of Long Pool – we came across several excited Hyaena running in and out of a dense thicket near the pan. We stopped our two vehicles and switched off the engines. We spotted a Lioness hiding in a clump of bushes on the edge of the large open vlei on the north side of the pan and the road, and could hear another male nearby calling to her. A number of Hyaena would respond to the Lion’s calls by rushing out of the thicket to look for the Lion, then rushing back into the thicket where there was obviously a kill. Most of the Hyaenas had blood on their faces from feeding. 

This carried on for some minutes until the Lioness we spotted broke cover and began walking towards the vlei. At once all the Hyaena (we counted 21) left the kill and chased the Lioness into the vlei. They surrounded her and took turns attacking her from behind, and as she turned to defend herself, others would attack her from the rear. As this was going on a large male Lion ran in from the tree line on the southern end of the vlei to help the Lioness. He attacked one of the Hyaena, sending it somersaulting for some ten metres, but he too ended up being surrounded with the Lioness, being attacked from all sides by the Hyaena. At this stage the young male we had heard calling to the Lioness earlier now broke from cover and went to help the two, as did an elderly Lioness from the southern side. 

A fierce fight erupted between the four Lion and 21 Hyaena, with the Hyaena eventually running back across the road to the kill. The Lion, all looking exhausted, walked off to the southern tree line where they lay down and rested, before moving off. 

The kill was a young Elephant, +/- 3 years old, and the Hyaena fought amongst themselves for what was left of it. We are of the opinion that the Lion made the kill and were chased off by the Hyaena. 

I have visited Mana Pools at least once a year since 1986 and have noted an alarming increase every year of Hyaena activity and a steady decrease of Lion.” 

Miles Bennett

 It is generally claimed that one adult pride male Lion present at a kill is often enough to deter and prevent Hyaena from taking over. The above description illustrates that the Hyaena were so dominant that not even 2 males could defend the kill.         

Hyena / Wild dog incident Mana Pools – Philip Krienke 

I was at Mubvi National Parks Chalet in Mana with Nick Turner, Ian Harvey and My mother, Jane Krienke in October 2008 on Friday the 3rd. 

We were all at Mubvi Chalet. Nick went to the office to get firewood. On the way there he saw wild dog so he returned to the chalet to collect us. We were watching them for a while when suddenly a young water buck ran out of the bush and the dogs chased it and caught it. Within minutes 23 hyena appeared and immediately took over the kill. The dogs lay around 20 to 30 meters away but did not attempt to recover the kill. 

          THE FULL IMPACT OF HYAENA DEPRADATIONS 

In Mr. Gus Mills report on his Spotted Hyaena study in Namibia, he shows that when Hyaena hunt, only 1/3 of their kills are adult prey, the rest are young. This fact is portrayed in the documentary  “Patterns In The Grass”, which depicts the Zebra migration in the Savuti Channel. The clans of Hyaena hunt foals, (150 killed in 10 days), while the Lion prides hunt adult Zebra. This means the Hyaena clans account for much higher numbers of prey animals than a pride of Lion. Where a pride of Lion kill one adult a Hyaena clan will kill four or more foals.

    In the commentary it is claimed that the ecological damage from the slaying of a foal is far less than from the loss of a full-grown Zebra. The young are expendable when compared to the stronger more experienced adults. 

The commentary then states that many more adults are killed by Lion;  “as older mare and stallions are cut down knowledge accumulated over countless seasons of migration are lost to the tooth and claw.” This insinuates that ecologically it is better to have large clans of Hyaena than prides of Lion. Ironically the film blames the decline of Zebra herd numbers from 45 000 in 1981 to 7 000 in 1991 on poachers. 38000 Zebra poached in 10 years is inconceivable. This impact on prey is the reason why the Impala population has not exploded again since 1992 at Mana, which would be expected with a lack of predators.   

 IS THE HYAENA IMPACT ON LION  CONFINED TO MANA POOLS? 

Mr. Pete Fick was in a hide at a bait in the Chewore, when he was attacked by a clan of Hyaena. Hunters have described a similar trend in the hunting areas as what happened in Mana Pools. They have all said that in the early ‘80’s, shortly after shooting an Elephant or Buffalo, a pride of Lion would arrive, but that in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, Lion were scarce and a clan of Hyaena would show up. This decline in Lion numbers caused the Mashonaland Hunters Association to voluntarily impose a ban on Lion hunting for a season in the early ‘90s. A significant development is that, because Hyaena were on licence they were hunted more frequently as the numbers increased. In Rifa concession the Hyaena quota was increased from 3 in 1989 to a suggested quota of 20 for 1991; a total quota of 25 issued by Parks for 1995 and a suggested quota by the Association of 35 for 1996 with the note that “Despite the larger hyena quota and offtake in 1995 it is felt that more pressure should be applied to this species to give others particularly Lion, the chance to ‘stabalise’. It is therefore suggested that the quota be increased by 10 and that a number of animals be taken in the vicinity of he hunting camps”. The quota issued by Parks for Rifa for 1997 was 40.

The end result was that when the Hyaena population decreased sufficiently due to the higher quotas the Lion population recovered in the hunting concessions. 

     Rob Oostindien saw over 75 different Lion and Lioness during a hunt in August 2002 in the Rifa hunting concession. He notes that a pride that consisted of 1 male and 3 female in 1998 now numbers 13.   

The documentaries “Patterns In The Grass”, “Eternal Enemies”, “The Sisterhood”, “The Super Predators” and several other similar wildlife films all illustrate large numbers of Hyaena hunting and harassing even strong prides of Lion. The unnatural food source, which established these packs, would have come from hunting in the Savuti as depicted in  “Patterns In The Grass”, where Zebra are shot and only the skins taken.

There is an account (confirmed by Pat Kelly) of large clans of Hyaena in the Luangwa Valley, which appeared after thousands of Hippo died of Anthrax spread from cattle in southern Tanzania.

There are large clans of Hyaena in the Masai Mara in Kenya, Serengeti and Ngorongoro. It is common knowledge that in the early 1900’s these areas were the venue for most of Africa’s hunting. (Roosevelt, Hemmingway, etc.)  Hunting parties would go out on safari for months at a time. It is reasonable to presume that these hunts provided an unnatural food supply to the Hyaena. It is argued that prides of Lion do co – exist with these packs of Hyaena. The reason is that those regions are open grassland plains with a much greater biomass of prey animals.  

          WHAT ROLE SHOULD HYAENA PLAY? 

With their powerful jaws and ungainly gait, it is incredible that they have become regarded as a ‘super   predator’. With jaws powerful enough to crack large bones for the marrow, they evolved as scavengers. For millennia, they have been living off the remains of predator kills and the sick and weak.  None of the early hunter’s writings, e.g. Frederick Courtney Selous, describe encounters such as the ones depicted in the wildlife documentary,  ‘Eternal Enemies’. If they had observed such behaviour, they would surely have written about such a fascinating experience. 

In  “The Safari Companion” Richard D Estes says that the Spotted Hyaena utilizes carcasses more efficiently than any other carnivores,yena utilises

 which waste up to 40% of their kills. Bones, horns, hooves, even teeth are digested within 24 hours. In “The Behavior Guide to African Mammals” Estes goes further to say that  (Quote) “ the desiccated corpse of Wildebeests that died months earlier are consumed and yield protein, fat, calcium, phosphorous and other minerals that help sustain milk production during lean times. Probably no other carnivore utilizes vertebrate prey so efficiently”. This highly efficient digestive system is of an animal that spent millions of years evolving as a scavenger utilizing a food niche of hide and large bones discarded by true predators that, on large prey kills, only consumed the flesh. An ecologist claimed that the Hyaena has a consistently larger heart relative to the Lion and its foot structure is suitable for covering long distances and claimed that the large heart and foot structure has evolved because the Hyaena is a  ‘marathon hunter’. The reason for the Hyaena’s larger heart and difference in foot structure is more likely to be because of the long distances it has to cover scavenging for food whereas the Lion’s relatively smaller heart will be because it is an efficient predator and does not require the long distance aerobic exercise. The Hyaena utilised a food niche that true predators abandoned, (bone and hide because of their efficient hunting ability) and evolved the jaws and digestive system required to deal with it. Recent observations at Chitake Spring where there are indications that the average size of the pride of Lion is 20 and a clan of only 7 Hyaena have demonstrated that in this ratio the Hyaena do not obtain meat from Lion kills at all. When the Lion kill Impala, within 20 minutes there is nothing left for the Hyaena. For most of the year, when there is sufficient cover, the Lion’s preferred prey is Impala and the pride ‘bombshells’ into groups of 3 to 4 to maximize kills and reduce competition at feeding. In the late dry season of August, September and October the pride reforms and kills of large species are made.

I observed the following kills over periods of 3 days: -

 30 June 2002           2 male 4 Lioness and 3 sub adults feeding on Elephant calf kill

12 October 2002        the whole pride feeding on a Buffalo kill

15 October 2002        the whole pride feeding on an Elephant calf kill                          

 24 October 2002       the whole pride feeding on a Buffalo kill

In all cases no Hyaena were seen or even heard in the vicinity of the kill. The Lion finished feeding and left the carcasses at 5 – 6 am of the second morning, (the prey having been killed during the first night). Within seconds of the last Lion leaving, the waiting Vultures took over the kill, still without the appearance of any Hyaena, so that at the end of the second day there was literally only hide and bone left. In two cases it was a week before the Hyaena utilized these remains.

In “The Complete Book of Southern African Mammals” Mr. Gus Mills make the following comments:

1.    He    describes   the   Hyaena   as   an  “all-rounder”

2.     that it was long regarded as a cowardly scavenger

3.     that it is “now known to be an efficient and powerful predator pulling down prey as large as Buffalo and Eland”

4.    that it is  “ capable of pursuing its prey at speeds of 60 km an hour for more than 3 kilometres”

These all lead to a conception that the Spotted Hyaena is a “super predator”. It is undeniable that Hyaena do now prey on other species, however all other predators kill their prey within a few metres of initiating the attack. To chase prey for 3 kilometres until it is totally exhausted is not the modus operandi of a “super predator”.

The contention that large hunting packs of Hyaena are normal and have always occurred is an assumption. In 1972 Hans Kruuk was the first person to document the fact that Hyaena hunt and scavenge. Chris McBride’s study of the clans of Hyaena in Botswana in the early 1980’s is recorded in his book “Lion Tide”. He spent many months habituating the prides of Lion and clans of Hyaena to vehicles and spotlights at night. It has been claimed that these people are the first ever to observe, study and depict packs of Hyaena harassing prides of Lion as described in the book “Lion Tide” and portrayed in the films. This may be so, but only because prior to the 1960’s there were no large clans of Hyaena dominating Lion to be observed.

    The following excerpts from Bill Harvey’s book will refute these claims that Hyaena were not observed, studied and recorded. Mr. Harvey was a Game Ranger in Tanganyika from 1928 to 1938:

     “I traveled many thousand of miles by car, on foot and by canoe, over my new range making careful notes containing detailed observations of all wild life in the provinces”

      “In order to get on with the job it was necessary to spend most of my time on safari in wet or dry weather to visit areas unexpectedly – often traveling throughout the night.”  

       “It was not unusual to return to camp long after dark”

       “Safari during the last three months before the rains was tough going. Journeys by car and on foot were made, as far as possible, at night to escape the scorching sun”.

       “On an average we walked for 17-20 miles or more a day -----------sometimes we might go a hundred miles or more  ----------some times we camped for several days at one spot”.

        “It must be remembered that we spent most of our days in the bush for years on end”.

        “Of course there were many nights when I was awakened to go out hunting for a raiding beast”.

         “Elephant hunting calls for great endurance --------- there were many occasions when we did not come up with our quarry until it was too dark to shoot and this meant sleeping out in the bush and continuing the hunt in the morning.”

            Mr. Harvey’s description of Hyaena is that of a scavenger:  -

                        “ they are heavily built animals with very strong shoulders and necks. Their skulls are wide and deep and their powerful jaws equipped with muscles and molars capable of crushing almost any bone excepting the biggest bones of an Elephant.”

                        “In spite of their size, strength and powerful jaws, they seldom attack any living creatures bigger than themselves and then only if the victim is asleep or sick.”

                         “They are solitary and nocturnal in their habits and seldom seen in day light. Being cowardly creatures they live almost entirely on carrion --------- they are great scavengers and take a full share in keeping the air of the country fresh and clean. No matter what state of decomposition of a carcass they will return night after night until every bit of rotting meat is eaten and then they will break up and eat the bones.”

                          “As a rule they do not hunt in packs and I have never come across an instance of this nature.”

                          “They travel long distances in a night -------- I have seen their tracks along a path for at least 15 miles.”

   “Their strength is amazing ----------- shot a full grown Water Buck bull. A solitary Hyaena came along during the night, dragged it a good fifty yards through heavy sand then up a steep bank into some scrub.”                        

         The 1964 edition of Collier’s Encyclopedia states that the Hyaena is a carrion feeder; that it is a solitary roving animal and that a large percentage of its food is from kills by lions; but no Hyaena would dare approach until the lion had satisfied its hunger and left the kill. 

In the last forty years our concept of hyaena has changed from the above description to believing that what we now see in these recent wildlife films is normal behaviour. 

Wherever large clans of Hyaena exist in the history of that area it may be found that poaching, culling or hunting operations have provided the food source that increased their numbers. 

In Dr. Gianetta Purchase’s study “The Factors Affecting the Ratio of Lions (Panthera Leo) to Spotted Hyaena (Crocuta Crocuta)” she makes the following statements; 

On page 20 - she says that after culling both species in Kruger Park lion recovered more quickly than hyaena - it was argued that female hyena could not maintain communal dens. However it is a fact that lioness have 3 to 4 cubs but hyaena only have 2 cubs and, as is shown in the documentary "The Sisterhood", the first born or dominant hyaena cub kills the other one. This maybe a contributing reason why Lion recovered more quickly than Hyaena. The rule that an animal species population size is related to its food supply is overlooked. 

On Page 29 – in Liuwa Plains National Park lions appear to have access to Wildebeest and Zebra. In Kruger spotted Hyaena only gain access to this size species prey through scavenging from lion kills. However, no cases of Hyaena displacing Lions from kills were recorded. - she does not explain that in Savuti and Serengetti the Hyaena clans are much bigger and so they do have access to those prey species and also displace Lion from their kills. This is also evident in Mana Pools National Park where Hyaena displace Lion from their kills on the Mana Flood Plain but they do not at Chitake. 

On Page 36 - she repeatedly states that male Lions are dominant and Hyaena do not take kills from them - but on Mana Flood Plain there is a documented account that Hyaena took a kill from a pride with 2 males in it and there is photographic evidence of 11 Hyaena mobbing a male Lion in an incident when 22 Hyaena took a Zebra kill from a pride of 10 Lion. 

On Page 36 - she says that when a competing predator population is removed (or reduced) the other predator population will increase within an area it can be hypothesized that the removal of a predator population will result in a population increase of the remaining predator species if competition has been the limiting factor. This supports the hypothesis that if Hyaena are reduced on the Mana Flood Plain  Lion will  increase. 

On Page 28 - in most protected areas where Lion and Spotted Hyaena have been studied, Hyaena are in greater numbers or equal to Lion. But she says this does not hold true in all protected areas. In some areas either Lion or Hyaena dominate the area. Areas where Hyaena are dominant have a history of culling or hunting and access to food from camps   and lodges for example Savuti and Mana Flood Plain but areas where Lion are dominant there is no history of culling, hunting and access to food from camps for example Matusadona and the Chitake Spring ecosystem and Kruger. (There has been culling of elephant in Kruger but the carcasses were processed in abattoirs with nothing left for the Hyaena and the camps are fenced, whereas at Mana Flood Plain the carcasses from the 1985 elephant cull were left in the bush for the Hyaena to feed on and the free standing rubbish bins at the camps and lodges of the 1980s and the open rubbish pit fed the hyena on a daily basis.) 

On Page 211 she says that it may be that human influences are playing an increasing important role in relationships between the member species of the guild of large carnivores. 

On Page 212 – she says ”the effect of human activities on the structure of the large carnivore guild of predators in Africa is identified as requiring further work”.   

SHOULD WE CONTROL HYAENA? 

If it is accepted that the Hyaena packs established themselves on an unnatural food source supplied by man, and that their increased numbers had an impact on the lion population, then their numbers should be managed.

The 1992 Zimbabwe Hunters Association hunting report in note 7 has the following –“It is feared that, as a result of the foot and mouth deboning regulations, the hyena populations are on the increase due to an improved food source round the camps, and this in turn may threaten the lion population” and ask “for an increase in the number of hyena in the bag”.

The 1995 Zimbabwe Hunters Association hunting report and suggested quotas for 1996 has the following comment in note 6: - “Despite the larger hyena quota and offtake in 1995 it is felt that more pressure should be applied to this species to give others particularly Lion, a chance to ‘stabalise’. It is therefore suggested that the quota be increased by 10 and that a number of animals be taken in the proximity of the hunting camps”.

Quota lists for the Rifa hunting concession have 3 Hyaena on quota in 1989; in 1990 the Association requested 20 with the note that hyaena are now a pest – 36 were seen on a short night drive, but were granted 12. In 1997 the Rifa quota was 40; 2000 – 50; 2001 – 50; 2002 – 50; 2003 – 50; 2004 – 50; 2005 – 25; 2006 – 15. This amounts to Hyaena population control in the hunting concessions specifically for Lion conservation. 

  At a National Parks meeting in 2001 it was asserted that the Lion numbers in the Zambezi Valley hunting concessions have recovered, even though they are hunted, because, since National Parks increased Hyaena on quota, every year significant numbers of Hyaena have been taken in each of those concessions. 

On the 23rd of June 2009 a meeting was arranged between Charl Grobelaar and Ian Games (the Facilitator for the Mana Management Plan). During the meeting Mr. Grobelaar informed us of the results of the increased offtake of Hyaena in the hunting concessions – specifically that the Lion population had recovered and that the Lion were now having an impact on the Buffalo population. He suggested that Lion quotas should be increased accordingly. Mr. Games agreed that, on the basis of the information in this document and the information provided by Mr. Grobelaar, if the Hyaena numbers are reduced the Lion numbers will increase. He then questioned whether it was necessary for Hyaena management to be undertaken.

 It has become evident that once the dominating numbers of Hyaena have been established it is not a cyclic situation wherein they will decrease naturally and the Lion numbers recover especially where there is a continual source of food from camps and lodges attracting and feeding the Hyaena. This situation has prevailed on the Mana Flood Plain since the late 1980s. The question is which animal is the most valuable Resource Animal in the Safari Areas and Mana Pools National Park – Lion or Hyaena? The Mana Flood Plain has changed from a Park where Lion could be seen on a daily basis to having to hire a Parks Ranger with a Telemetry Receiver to track collared Lion in order to ensure seeing Lion during a visit to Mana while visitors are now hiring electric fences to protect their campsites, food and children from attacks by Hyaena. Many families with small children will not visit Mana because of the Hyaena threat. 

It is clear that National Parks should adopt a Hyaena Management Policy in both the Hunting Safari Areas and Mana Pools National Park to be implemented whenever the Hyaena population is seen to be threatening the Lion and other Predator numbers. Such a policy could be of benefit to other areas in the region where the Hyaena numbers have become a problem. It has been recorded for a while now and has been a concern amongst conservationists that the numbers of Lion in Southern Africa are steadily declining. Efforts are being made through research to investigate the impact that Hunting has on Lion numbers. It has been established by Dr. Monks that hunting does not have an impact on Lion. He even states that Hunting may aid population growth by removing old non reproductive Pride Males. It should be recognised that Hyaena in a dominant role may be the major cause for the decline in Lion Populations. 

Mr. Bill Bedford of Ingwe Safaris provided the following statistics for Lion: - 

YEAR

ANIMAL

DATE

LOCSTAT

SEX

2002

LION

JUNE

TT009115

MALE

 

 

 

TT128009

MALE

 

 

JULY

ST894004

MALE

 

 

OCTOBER

ST918035

MALE

 

LIONESS

AUGUST

ST904014

FEMALE

 

 

SEPTEMBER

SS925994

FEMALE

 

 

 

 

 

2001

LION

MAY

TT113018

MALE

 

 

JUNE

ST913040

MALE

 

 

 

ST913041

MALE

 

LIONESS

OCTOBER

SS928924

FEMALE

 

 

 

 

 

2000

LION

JULY

 

MALE

 

 

SEPTEMBER

 

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1999

LION

APRIL

ST940020

MALE

 

 

SEPTEMBER

SS935466

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1998

LION

SEPTEMBER

TS142978

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1997

LION

SEPTEMBER

TT025021

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1996

LION

AUGUST

SS890940

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1995

LION

MAY

SS881933

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1994

NONE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1993

LION

 

SS892996

MALE

 

 

 

ST931048

MALE

 

LIONESS

 

TT035002

FEMALE

 And for Hyaena: - 

2002

HYAENA

JUNE

TT065024

MALE

 

 

JULY

TT014019

MALE

 

 

SEPTEMBER

TT037024

FEMALE

 

 

OCTOBER

TT029016

MALE

 

 

 

TT133055

FEMALE

 

 

 

 

 

2001

NONE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2000

HYAENA

MAY

 

FEMALE

 

 

JUNE

 

FEMALE

 

 

JULY

 

FEMALE

 

 

AUGUST

 

MALE

 

 

SEPTEMBER

 

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1999

HYAENA

APRIL

TT010086

FEMALE

 

 

 

ST975005

MALE

 

 

 

TT113080

FEMALE

 

 

 

SS900965

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1998

HYAENA

JULY

 

FEMALE

 

 

AUGUST

ST923038

MALE

 

 

 

ST928049

MALE

 

 

 

TT126058

FEMALE

 

 

 

 

 

1997

HYAENA

JUNE

ST940070

MALE

 

 

JULY

ST927050

FEMALE

 

 

 

ST927050

FEMALE

 

 

SEPTEMBER

ST935065

MALE

 

 

OCTOBER

ST927050

FEMALE

 

 

 

 

 

1996

HYAENA

JUNE

ST058928

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1995

HYAENA

JUNE

ST942100

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

1994

HYAENA

JUNE

ST941104

MALE

 

 

 

ST895010

MALE

 

 

SEPTEMBER

ST929049

MALE

 

 

 

ST931048

FEMALE

 

 

 

 

 

1993

HYAENA

 

ST900009

MALE

 

 

 

TT129058

MALE

 

 

 

 

 

 The above statistics are presented in a graph below. The graph illustrates clearly that in the early 90’s very few Lion were hunted  (in 1994 none at all) but as the number of Hyaena off - take increased so the number of Lion on Quota and hunted also increased. 


Mr. Bedford also made the following comment in an email: - 

“One of the biggest problems for hunters in Parks areas is they cannot shoot Hyena at night which makes it difficult to take off their quota of Hyena.  I fenced 15000 acres at Matetsi and took out virtually all the Hyena inside the fence and my plainsgame species have boomed.  The Lion population in Matetsi is in a serious decline due to over-population of Hyena.  Parks should allow operators to cull their remaining Hyena quota at night. ” 

Mr. Rob Oosthindien who hunts in the Rifa concession provided the statistics below. 

YEAR

LION

LIONESS

HYAENA

1998

2

NO QUOTA

6

1999

2

1

17

2000

2

1

10

2001

2

1

5

2002

2

1

10

 

In his comments accompanying the statistics he says (quote) “I have no doubt that the Hyaena population has a direct influence on the Lion population with regards them stealing kills”. He has also on two occasions witnessed Hyaena following Wild Dogs on a hunt and then promptly stealing the kill the minute it was down.

He believes that “although quotas on Hyaena are realistic (40 for Rifa concession) not enough Hyaena are harvested”. This is because of the low number of clients and lack of demand for Hyaena so that only 10-20 are taken each year 

He proposes that Parks should introduce a management/cull quota on Hyaena to be harvested by Parks or operators because to rely on clients accounting for 30-50 Hyaena is unrealistic. 

            Mr. Johnny Rosenfels has provided the following statistics: - 

                         Hyaena                                       Lion

                   Quota      Killed                   Quota             Killed

 

      2000       24              7                            6                     6

      2001       25              9                            6                     6

      2002       25            13                            4                     4

      2003       35           ----                            6                   -----     

       As can be seen, even with an increase in the number of Hyaena taken every year, there was still a higher number put on quota.

In Conclusion 

 Mana pools is a protected area, however with the 1985 elephant cull and the 1992 Impala cull there have been more animals shot there than would normally be in a hunting area.

            (Allan Savory email –6/9/2003)  “In general these days I believe my original work - that led to the culling  in the lower Zambezi - was faulty despite all the people we got to check my work because my recommendation that we cull excess elephant, buffalo, impala, etc was so foreign at the time.  I, like all at the time, believed we were seeing the tremendous damage to the land by the game shortly after making these protected areas because of too many animals.  Now after many more years of work on the problems of land deterioration I understand how wrong we all were” 

The consequences of the 1985 Elephant cull were that the Hyaena population increased resulting in the lion population crash allowing the Impala population to explode. These consequences could have been corrected if the impala population had been left in 1992. There would have been an abundant food supply for predators, and if the hyaena population had been reduced to a scavenging role, within two or three years the Lion numbers would have recovered. 

We have had the privilege of witnessing this phenomenon of a Hyaena population changing from a scavenging to a predatory role in a short period of time. We now have a unique opportunity to realise the far-reaching effects of our culling and hunting and poaching activities and to correct the misconception that large packs of hyaena dominating lion are normal that we have gained in the last thirty years. 

As has been shown in the hunting concessions, if the Hyaena numbers are reduced so that they fulfill their natural scavenging role the prey numbers will quickly recover and the lion will follow. Mr. Monk’s Lion research shows a ratio of 1 Lion to 3 Hyaena on the Mana river terraces. At Chitake the indications are that the ratio is 3 Lion to 1 Hyaena. This would indicate an optimum ratio for an ecosystem where there is a proper balance between lion and prey and Hyaena.