13 Nov

Remarkable Sighting: Hyenas Battle Cheetah Over Impala Kill

As rangers and trackers, we spend many hours a day in the bush, every day. And sometimes you think you have seen it all. But it’s days like this that show the African bush is always full of surprises, and you can never predict what you are going to encounter.

My guests and I were sitting in the vehicle, enjoying a sighting of Nompethu leopardess. These particular guests had never been to Africa before, and they were loving the special sighting, when our tracker, Wise, heard the distinctive alarm calls of impala not too far from where we were.

We decided to leave the leopard and head over and see what was going on. After ten minutes of searching, we managed to locate the ‘Two Brothers’, which is a coalition of male cheetah that we see in our area from time to time.

When we got to them, they were showing interest in something about 100m north of their position. It was a herd of impala that was not responding to the one’s alarm calling to the south. As soon as we turned the engine off, they dashed in the direction of the unsuspecting animals. Within seconds they had a female impala down. Our adrenaline was pumping; it’s always amazing witnessing a kill and the mixed emotions of excitement and empathy are electrifying.

One male began to eat immediately; while the other suffocated the animal. It was a gory sight to witness, but we all know that nature is raw and real. Meanwhile, we could see the cheetahs were very concerned about something — and this is why they were wasting no time with the kill. They kept eating, looking up, eating, looking up.

Then, out of nowhere, a group of hyenas rushed in at the carcass, and in a wild flurry, they chased the cheetahs away. The male cheetahs did not put up any fight, as hyenas are much bigger and stronger predators. As the hyenas moved in, the impala got up and tried to make a break for it, but this was not to be as more hyenas moved in and grabbed it again.

Now there were four hyenas on the animal, at it was obvious that it had no chance of recovery. The hyenas finished the impala within seconds; ending an extraordinary chain of events for myself and my guests – who had never been to Africa before.

How lucky they were to see a sighting like this! As an experienced guide (15 years!), I had never seen anything like this before, and it was something I’m sure my guests will never forget. I have seen cheetah kills and hyena kills, but I have never seen a cheetah take down an animal and steal the animal from the cheetahs and finish it off while it was still alive. It was sad to watch, but still ranks in the top 5 of best sighting ever!