Three and a half years ago, around February 2013, we had a report from guides in the Matobo Hills area that they’d heard spotted hyaena. They were reliable sources, so we were confident that they were right. There were also reports of severe hyaena conflict issues South of the Hills near the Botswana border, with communal farmers regularly losing livestock. Given that spotted hyaenas routinely travel tens of kilometres every night, it wasn’t out of the realms of probability that animals would wander up to the North. Residents of the Hills also reported the presence of spotted hyaena during the carnivore survey we began in 2013.
At that time, we’d been camera-trapping in the Park for about 30 months and had never detected any “spotties”. We grew impatient: SURELY they’d move through the Park? It would be great to get physical evidence of their presence after they were believed to be locally extinct by the mid-1960s.
What seemed like an age later, but was only June 2013, we got our first camera trap images – along the Mtsheleli Valley. The frequency of sightings increased, and it now seems that there is a small resident population centred on the Recreational Section of the Park. We’ve photographed three individuals together and there are immature animals in the mix. It will be interesting to monitor if – or how – the behaviour and distribution of the other large carnivores alters now that another dominant species has entered the mix!