The Opportunistic Predator

A few years ago we had a very unfortunate incident that was bound to happen one day.

The lodge where I was working at the time was in need of renovations and new rooms were being built on to accommodate more guests.
The lodge was far from any town and so the construction workers had to stay onsite for the project.
There was no proper accommodation for the workers, so they decided the next best place to sleep would be on the ground between the Land Rovers in the garage. By the way the garage had no doors.

Early one morning at about 5 am I was woken by the sound of someone shouting and screaming from panic and pain! The sound was coming from our staff village which was unfenced and regularly had visitors of the four-legged type. This time it was a spotted hyena that came wondering through the village in search of possible food.

The construction workers who were fast asleep were unaware of the approaching hyena, when all of a sudden the hyena, using her powerful jaws, grabbed one of the men by the leg. Instead of killing him she ran off dragging the poor man behind her across the village floor.

The unfortunate victim was now wide-awake as you can imagine and started shouting and kicking at the hyena in an attempt to escape. This was all too much for the hyena, so she let go her grip and instead of running away into the bush she made a bee-line back to the garage to try her luck with a different meal. The remaining three men in the garage who were also by this time wide awake and on high alert started shouting and franticly waving their hands to try and chase the hyena away.
Their attempt worked as she made a quick u-turn and headed off back into the bush.

The construction worker that was snatched by the hyena was very lucky to be alive but did suffer from deep puncture wounds to his leg, which he had treated by a doctor in case of possible infection.

The reality of this is that incidents of this nature happen all the time in Africa with many people being injured every year as well as numerous recorded deaths by Spotted hyenas.


Namib Naturalist said...

It is true that many people are attacked by hyenas like the incident you describe. I do feel, however, that the impression that you give, that lots of people are killed, is a bit exaggerated. I don't have any good statistics (after all, nobody does - I know all to well how things go down in many remote hospitals in Africa. Doctors working like made to serve communities that have hopelessly inadequate medical facilities aren't all that concerned about reporting hyena attacks. They are too busy saving lives.)

Hyenas are very, very opportunistic, and will almost always grab at a person lying on the ground. However, if you wave in the air, shout, or hit the hyena, from what I hear, they usually let go.

I grew up in the remote northern Kenya (see my parents blog ( or my brothers ( to see. We had lots of problems with hyenas, as well as lions and other animals. I can't remember a single incident of a hyena killing someone. Lions are a different story.

However, it is good to be reminded that hyenas are indeed large predators and should be taken seriously as should any large African animal.

African Safari Stories said...

Thanx for the informative comment "Namib Naturalist". Spotted Hyenas statistically don't kill as many people as say the mosquito, hippo, crocodile or lion do but you do hear of such incidents taking place often enough, to be classified as a lot of deaths.

In my first four years working as a guide I met two people that were attacked by Spotted hyenas while asleep, the one man was the guy I mentioned in my story and the other man was a guest of mine that had his ear bitten off while sleeping in an open tent in Botswana. I do agree that you can chase hyenas away without much danger but most accidents happen when people asleep in the open or insecure buildings and tents.

Some interesting records on human deaths or injuries due to Spotted Hyenas can be found at

I have re-phased the last to lines of my post as not to come across as to exaggerated.

Once again thanx for the comments and it's great to see you're back from your trip and blogging again.

krishna kashyap av said...

It must have been a terrifying incident..
Thank god, it was just hyena..
If it was some other wild animal, it would have been a difficult one.
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Shelley Armstrong said...

Really enjoyed reading your blog and learning that animals that I thought were not a big threat to man, can be!
They are all still wild animals and we need to be more respectful and aware of that.

Shelley Armstrong
African Travel Experts

Anil Sharma said...

Im sure these incidents happen a fair amount but they are bound to as you are sharing the animals habitat with them. Going on luxury safari holidays may allow for greater security against this but they are wild animals and that has to be respected.Great post!

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