National Geographic Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas


Since we left these dark nights in Africa

and escaped to the security of our armchairs

we have forgotten the horror,

the turmoil of the hidden battlefields,

and the secrets of their special magic.

Like ghosts in the moonlight

silhouette shades gather

to confront each other,

lions to beguile the hyenas,

hyenas to torment the lions.

They both have arrived at an

elephant carcass to scavenge.

Even those royal lions can

feed with the rotten flesh.

The rivalry reaches far beyond

the competition for food.

If animals can hate,

this is a blood feud of hatred.

For millennia these two scavengers and hunters

have waged an ancient war against each other.

It is often unpleasant to witness,

desperately sad and horrifying,

always deeply disturbing.

Until now, this war has been veiled

under the secrecy of darkness.

This is the story of two of Africa's

bitter, eternal enemies.

Eternal Enemies

Lions and Hyenas

Two filmmakers, Dereck and Beverly Joubert

have documented an ancient war

by getting to know both the lions

and the hyenas in one area.

These are excerpts from their film notes.

The Central Pride which we know best

comprises nine young lionesses

and two adult males.

Today one lioness is missing

and something is happening

out on the grassland.

Sometime during the night

hyenas have killed a buffalo.

The young lioness is alone

scavenging from their kill.

Their tolerance is short-lived.

The calls of the hyena assault

are carring miles across the grassland,

to a male of the pride's

who is always eager to confront the hyenas.

Usually we think of lions as noble hunters

and hyenas as lower scavengers.

Often it is the other way around.

But for the young lioness,

whom we have named Matsumi

the arrival of the male

makes little difference.

Males often dominate their kills

until they are sated

along the females to feed only on scraps.

We followed Matsumi,

who has left the pride

and seems to be on a mysterious quest.

Methodically, she explores the hills

that jut out like granite fortresses

on the fringe of the pride's territory.

These hills are landmarks

in the northern region

of the African country of Botswana.

Here a place, called Savuti

is famous for its many lion prides

and great numbers of hyenas.

It is here that the miracle happens.

When young lionesses come of age

they always seek out a secluded spot

away from the pride and safe from hyenas.

Three cubs are born in the safe hideaway.

It's surprising to see that their eyes

are open, but as yet they cannot see.

By instinct they know what to search for.

And very soon they locate by smell

the nipples that will feed them

for the next year.

For that time and long

the cubs will rely entirely

on their mother and the pride.

From very early on

there is competition for food among lions.

Like a reigning queen

this hyena is the most dominant

in what we called, the Southern Clan.

She is the female leader, the matriarch.

Her status is probably set for life.

She keeps her two tiny cubs

separate from the other mothers,

and their cubs.

One of these cubs should grow up

to be the matriarch's successor.

As long as their mother is head of the clan

her position will ensure their protection.

But now these tiny cubs are probably

unaware of their privilege in the clan.

Male hyenas are smaller than the females

and subordinate to them all.

The females dominate the hyena clan system,

and a male around the den

is an unwelcome threat to cubs

and a nuisance to females.

This is a female society.

In appearance they are like dogs,

but the myths and legends surrounding hyenas are mostly wrong

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    "National Geographic Eternal Enemies: Lions and Hyenas" STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 25 Jan. 2022. <>.

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