Posted in Africa, Nature, Photography, Travel

More Hyenas


Juvenile Hyena photograph by Cheryl Merrill
Juvenile Hyena
photograph by Cheryl Merrill


After posting about hyenas last week, I received a message from a Facebook friend about our similar experiences. Adrian and Ellen Kingi (from New Zealand) were managers at Stanley’s Camp from 2006-2007. I met them in 2007 and was delighted to reconnect with Ellen this year. (Unfortunately, Adrian died from leukemia in April). I asked Ellen if I could use her messages as a follow-up post.

“Loved reading this excerpt. During our term of management at Stanley’s from 2006 to 2007 I became fascinated with hyenas. Despite their ugly reputation I had huge respect for them, for their physical size and power as you described, but also for their social structure and the way the packs interacted. There was a den about 200 meters away from camp and on an evening off our favorite pastime was to take a vehicle, nose out quietly into the entrance of the den, turn off the engine and sit quietly to watch the pups play and harass their babysitter while mother was out hunting. Babies were very young, still black as pitch with very first signs of color only just starting to appear on eyebrows and chest. Tolerance and love of nanny was beautiful to witness.

When we arrived at Stanley’s there was a damaged sofa stored in our management house that had been attacked in the lodge you described. Don’t know whether this was the second sofa out whether the attacks had gone on and on and this may have been yet another!!! Anyway, a replacement for this one duly arrived, and we challenged ourselves to guess how long it would stay untouched. A week later, one seat cushion was gone. Next night, the second. And not long after the two back cushions. After that, guardrails were erected around the perimeter of the lodge deck and barriers propped up at the tops of the stairs each night. The barriers had to be remodeled when the hyenas learned they could be dragged away to give them access to the dining chairs.

Adrian was so frustrated, but he could have been a dreadful statistic when he woke to an almighty bang one night about 2 am, thought it was a hyena attacking the latest new sofa, and so went to investigate. He found SEVEN hyenas on the deck. He had a large stick with him and had the presence of mind to slam it so hard on the deck that the animals didn’t have time to even think of attacking him and took off. Adrian realized his foolishness and returned shaking.

My closest encounter with hyenas was in the Stanley’s kitchen. After dinner one evening I was stepping out of the kitchen door after checking that the rubbish bins were inside. As I put my foot out the door the front feet of a large hyena stepped up towards me as she was deciding to try her luck for some easy food. I reacted with loud shout and jump, and she raced away. They did get into the kitchen one night when door wasn’t properly secured. The mess was incredible next morning.

It was so funny reading your post and thinking we had experienced exactly the same things. Dining chairs eventually became non=leather models, but I wonder how many leather sofas became hyena fodder, and whether they too were changed to another medium. It was a major lesson for Adrian, and to think it could have been any other animal roaming around the camp at that hour of the morning that could have taken him out. Shudder!!!!!”

Many thanks to Ellen for letting me share her experiences at Stanley’s.




Cheryl Merrill’s essays have been published in Fourth Genre, Pilgrimage, Brevity, Seems, South Loop Review, Ghoti, Alaska Quarterly Review, Adventum and Isotope. “Singing Like Yma Sumac” was selected for the Best of Brevity 2005 and Creative Nonfiction #27. It was also included in the anthology Short Takes: Model Essays for Composition, 10th Edition. Another essay, “Trunk,” was chosen for Special Mention in Pushcart 2008. She is currently working on a book about elephants: Larger than Life: Living in the Shadows of Elephants.

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