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Thursday, October 5, 1995

Africa Journal - Dog Day Morning

Thursday, October 5, 1995

Dog Day Morning

Hyena smell like death. There are three hyena wallowing in the yellow-green water of the pan. We are stopped twenty five meters this side of the pan. Downwind. Two hyena are sitting in the water, drinking, and watching the jackals lurking behind us. One is gnawing on something unrecognizable in the water. The sound of cracking bone punctuates the whistle of the wind. There is a pack of wild dogs resting on the opposite side of the pan, one small pup among them. Edward says there used to be two. The dogs have wet red faces.

We arrived moments before. The action had taken place a short time before that. The story is clearly written all over the scene. The dogs made the kill, and ate their fill. The hyena took it away and dragged it into the water to drown the scent. The jackals were waiting for an opportunity to grab scraps for themselves. The only unknown was the dead animal. One hyena sticks his head in the water and emerges with the head of an impala in his mouth. He drops it on the bank, and starts to gnaw. Sigrid has to turn away.

Yesterday’s cheetah kill was visual excitement. Same dead animal today, but today is an assault on the senses. The stench. The sound of the cracking skull. The building heat. The pieces of impala hide stretching to the hyena’s mouth. I have to fight down a gag reflex myself. Too much reality.

Two hyena fight over the hide. Jackals get some scraps. The dogs come down to the water to drink, and chase a hyena away from the pup.

We are a subdued group driving back to camp. On the way, we see the carcass of a dead hyena wedged high in a tree. This is a surprise. Hyena are not often a meal for leopard.

On the afternoon drive, we go first to the large water hole, then back to the hyena tree. At a distance, Edward spots the leopard at the base of the tree. As we roll to a stop, the leopard walks into the bush and disappears. Nineteen days in Africa, and I complete the big five.

Back to the small water pan. The dogs and jackals are gone. The three hyena are still there. Two walk away. The third is lying on its side and appears too sick or injured too move. I don't know its history, but I can tell its future.

 This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (, the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were screen caps from video which I am leaving as is for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts.  The difference should be obvious.

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