Relationship between leopard and spotted hyena on a WEI Internship


As part of her recent reserve management internship, WEI intern Milenka Sloots delved into our camera trap database and investigated the relationships between the Leopards (Panthera pardus) and Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) which make Balule Nature Reserve their home.

Animals which share the same resources, such as feeding on the same prey animals, often compete with each other.  This requires them to develop behaviours to reduce confrontation such as avoiding each other.  However, previous studies have shown that this is not always the case and Milenka was able to support this with her findings.

Leopards are known to cache their kills in trees due to the fact that they are often victims of kleptoparasitism.  This is a behaviour whereby a species will steal a resource from another species.  As Milenka stated in her report, a study by Balme et al. (2017) shows that 21% of leopard kill were kleptoparasitised with only 9% of those being stolen by lions while 50% were stolen by hyena.

Using the WEI camera trap software, Milenka was able to show that the related observations, different species observed in a certain timeframe at the same location, was strongest between leopards and impala (Aepyceros melampus). This makes sense since leopards would obviously be following one of their favourite food sources. 

Interestingly the second most observed co-occurrence is between Leopards and Hyena.  This strange result supports earlier research and studies focused on the relationship between these species which show that it is common for hyenas to kleptoparasitise leopard kills.

The results of Milenka’s internship helps us to better understand the interactions between the wildlife which makes the western buffer zone of Kruger National Park their home, and provides information to inform decisions to reserve managers which will help conserve these amazing creatures.



Join our mailing list and stay updated on our conservation work and internship news!