Hyenas: Communication and hunting
Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) are even slower runners than lions and in consequence their hunting methods have to be even more subtle and dependent on teamwork. The females have separate dens where they rear their pups, but the pack as a whole works together and holds and defends a territory. They have a rich vocabulary of sound and gestures with which they communicate among themselves. They growl and whoop, grunt, yelp and whine as a means of communicating amongst themselves. They also use their tails as a means of communication. Tails are normally carried pointing down. An erect tail indicates aggression; pointed forward over the back, social excitement; held between the legs tight under the belly, fear. By hunting in well-co-ordinated teams, they have become so successful that in parts of the Africanplains, they make the majority of kills and the lions merely use their bigger size to bully their way on to a carcass.
Hyenas usually hunt at night. Sometimes they set off in small groups of two or three and then a wildebeest is likely to be their intended prey. They test the herds by charging them and then slowing down to watch the fleeing animals closely, as if trying to detect any weakness among individuals. In the end, they appear to select one animal and begin to chase it doggedly, cantering after it, snapping at its heels until it is finally goaded into turning and facing its persecutors. When it does that, it is doomed. While it faces one hyena, the others lunge at its belly, sinking their teeth into the unfortunate animal. The wildebeest is soon crippled, and disembowelled.