Rare images in the wild capture the rare moment when five hyenas cooperated to take down a giant rhino

Rare images in the wild capture the rare moment when five hyenas cooperated to take down a giant rhino

Spotted hyenas have a nasty reputation as conniving scavengers (thanks a lot, Lion King). In truth, these predators often hunt for their meals and are more than capable of tackling sizeable prey especially if they work together. A series of dramatic photos taken by Jérémy Schalkwijk in South Africa’s Kruger National Park serve as evidence of just how formidable these carnivores can be.

Image © JS African Dreamer/Jérémy Schalkwijk

The incident took place in the early morning when the hyenas happened upon a trio of rhinos. One of the rhinos was limping, a noticeable weakness that may have enticed the predators to attack. Schalkwijk also noticed that the animal was missing the tip of its tail. He hypothesised that the limping could have been the result of a bout of rough sparring with another rhino, while the damaged tail was almost certainly nipped off by a brazen predator. Kruger National Park sales representative Danie Bester who captured the footage embedded below has since confirmed that the hyenas were responsible for removing the rhino’s tail.

The hyenas honed in on their target. The rhino bystanders initially rallied together to protect their imperilled comrade, but soon turned their attention to grazing instead, leaving the victim to fend off the clan on its own. After a considerable tussle, the predators chased their prey into a dry riverbed.

Image © JS African Dreamer/Jérémy Schalkwijk

Image © JS African Dreamer/Jérémy Schalkwijk

Image © JS African Dreamer/Jérémy Schalkwijk

Image © JS African Dreamer/Jérémy Schalkwijk

Although they are rarely witnessed tackling such sizeable prey, hyenas are opportunistic hunters and will capitalise on any available meal. Some who saw the latest hyena-vs-rhino showdown speculated that the rhino may have been in a weakened state as a result of a recent drought.

The animal also appears to be a juvenile. Rhino calves are at greater risk and usually stick close to their mothers for protection. Last year, a rhino in Kenya was filmed protecting her calf from a pair of marauding hyenas, while a more tragic incident was captured on camera in the Kruger Park involving a rhino mom who stood guard over her stillborn baby while a clan of hyenas tried to get at the carcass.

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