A Love Story between a Researcher and a Spotted Hyeana

As we all know spotted hyena can be sometimes a little difficult and extremely mischievous! So this is my story of the love hate relationship I formed with a spottie I lovingly named “Battery Acid”!

It started a year ago when myself and two others began a Leopard Research project in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The project was aimed at obtaining data on the abundance and habitat preferences of leopard on the reserve using remote sensor cameras. The cameras were placed throughout the reserve, however a group of 4 cameras located closer to our base grabbed the attention and affection of one very eccentric spottie!

Initially, she took to licking the cameras profusely, leaving me with a lovely covering of hyena slobber over the cameras and which distorted the lenses. This happened every few days over a period of two weeks. We started to notice the pattern as in the evening we would here a concentrated half an hour of hyena whoops and giggles followed by the next day receiving our slobber gift!

We tried a number of things to deter her but to no avail. She loved the cameras and continued to lick them constantly! The love affair then proceeded to progress! One morning we checked the camera and found not only had they been licked to death but she had given all the batteries a small “love bite” on the right hand corner. Fearing for the batteries, our data and of course the animals’ health we decided to bury the batteries underneath the cameras.

Spotties are very clever it turns out! She dug out each battery and over a period of weeks began to give them more “love bites”! One morning we were horrified to find all the batteries had been chewed to an inch of its life! Replacing the batteries and moving them to other locations close by, we thought might have tricked her, but no!!! The same thing happened again!

One evening we heard the typical excited whooping. Of late, her calls had taken a slight gruffer more gargling tone! We decided to go out in the truck and investigate! Sure enough we witnessed a female spotted hyena systematically go to each camera station, lick the camera itself, dig up the battery and then chew it a few times. After each little love session she gave an excited whoop and ran around the tree! By this time we were pretty concerned for her health as she must of consumed rather a lot of batter acid and her voice had started to change!!!

We took down the cameras and built steel boxes to keep all the contents protected. Each night “battery acid” came up to our base fence and walked the perimeter. I believe she was pretty mad or upset we had removed her beloved cameras and batteries!
The steel boxes worked!!Yet she still licked the boxes but was unable to chew any more batteries and drink anymore acid, thank goodness! She still called in the same broken whoop and still walked our fence line! But we were happy that Battery Acid was no longer in harms way!! Hyena have extremely strong stomaches and have higly toxic acids inside them to break down bone and other things that they eat.

I will never know whether she loved or hated the batteries but what I do know is made my research rather difficult at first! Still to this day you can hear battery acid calling and giggling but she no longer bothers the camera traps, as the elephants decided they didn’t want them there anyway and destroyed them entirely!!!!!!!

Battery Acid caught on camera before her started chewing!!

Battery Acid looking much better in this light!! Our loving spotted hyena
Our camera trap after the elephants had taken a disliking to it!!

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