The limping rhino could not fight off five hyenas at the same time attacking and dying after an unequal fight.
Photographer Jérémy Schalkwijk witnessed hyenas teaming up to attack rhinos in Kruger National Park on November 10. In a series of photos shared by Schalkwijk on Facebook, the rhino appears to be weak against five hyenas, but Schalkwijk was unable to capture the moment the huge animal fell because the attackers chased it out of sight.
The incident happened early in the morning when the hyenas encountered three rhinos grazing. One of them hobbled. This conspicuous weakness may have attracted the attention of predators. Schalkwijk also noticed that the rhino had lost the tip of its tail, but he did not know if it was an injury caused by the hyena. According to the photographer, the limp could be the result of a fierce battle with another rhinoceros.
The hyenas split up to harass the target. At first, the injured rhino’s companions huddled to protect it, but they quickly concentrated on grazing, leaving the victim to fend for himself against the hyenas. After a long struggle, the hyena chased the prey to the dry riverbed. Schalkwijk was unable to witness the rhino’s death with his own eyes, but the subsequent flocks of vultures confirmed that the rhino had died after the attack.
Though rarely targeting prey the size of a rhinoceros, hyenas are opportunistic hunters who don’t miss any available meals. Some speculate the rhino may be weakened after the recent drought and appears to be immature. Young rhinos are at higher risk of attack and often follow their mothers for extra protection.