Kalyan Varma

Revenge of the Hyena

We are currently in the grasslands of Velavadar National Park filming for Wild India. We have been getting good shots of the blackbucks lekking and an amazing array of other animals. From wolves, hyenas, jackals, jungle cats to nilgais. We have been waiting at a hyena den the last few days but have not managed to see it at all.

Yesterday, while driving around, I saw one hyena in a new area in the grasslands. Allah Rakha (our amazing guide) and I decided to investigate and searched around the area in the evening. We came across a den in the middle of the grasslands. We were not really sure if this was an active one or even if it was the den of a hyena. To find out, I decided to deploy a Trailmaster Camera-trap along with my old DSLR.

Since its just flat area, I did not have anything to tie the transmitter and receiver to, so in these cases, I just keep them on the ground, align them and set it up. I set it up about 8 m away from the den, not to disturb the animal if it was using it, but would get it if it decided to venture out away from the den.

Setting up the trap takes some time and I was struggling to align the beam and also setting up the camera and flash. We heard something move and as both of us looked behind, the hyena came out of the den (we didnt realise it was in the den all along) and was watching us with big ears pointing towards us, wondering what we were upto. I have never seen one so close and all of us got startled. It decided to jump out of the den and walk away slowly. I did not have my big lens, else I would have got an amazing photograph.

We decided to set it up anyway and left the place. This morning, I went back to pick up the camera-trap and was shocked to find my receiver was not there. I looked at the photos and voila, the hyena did come and somehow took an active interest in the receiver. It snifffed it a couple of times and decided to play with it and chew on it.

Hyena chewing the receiver

Some more playing around with the receiver

What I did not understand was this: Why was the camera still photographing when the alignment was clearly off?

After looking at the timestamps of the images (all of them are few min apart), it looks like the camera triggered each time the hyena tossed the trap in such a way the beam got re-aligned with the transmitter. In a funny way, thanks to the hyena’s playfulness with the receiver, I managed to get these shots.

Hyena taking away the receiver

There goes my $400 equipment. I did not find it anywhere around, so mostly the hyena has taken it into the den. Lets hope its not munching on it, thinking its some kind of a bone. Anyone coming from the US who would be willing to pick one up for me?

(The poor quality of the image is because the hyena was beyond the range of the flash and I had to be highly cropped the image and get the details in photoshop).

22 Responses to “Revenge of the Hyena”

  1. Deepa says:

    only YOU would apologize for the “poor quality” of the shots on such an occasion! These are (like the elephant ones) unique shots. I never knew you had a hyena assistant….!

  2. arati says:

    awesome backstory! here’s to more such interesting ones :)

  3. Sharath says:

    Nice stuff..
    Can help you get a transmitter. I have some people coming back from US end of April. Let me know.

  4. Lima says:

    Awesome stuff!!! Here’s to getting a replacement transmitter!!!

  5. Nisha says:

    Wow ! That’s quite a revenge. And I agree with Deepa here. :)

  6. Adhikari says:

    Awesome footage!!! good luck through the story…. and see you soon.

  7. GT says:

    niceeeee kalyan……thanks for the background story as well…

  8. I dont care much for the quality in this case, but the footage is fantastic dude!! Great going there, good luck!

  9. Maya says:

    I guess you may have gotten away with placing the equipment there if the hyena had not seen you doing it! This is such a wonderful glimpse into the animal’s curiosity. Thanks for sharing!

  10. nara says:

    Nice one..good story & picture

  11. Ravikiran says:

    The story was good n u really lucky to work with wildlife such close.And really the pics r good for people like us v got to c this bec of u.Even i got the doubt when the alignment was no more there how did it click, thanks for writing n clearing the doubt.Great work.cheers bro!!

  12. Dilip Chacko says:

    Kalyan, I can help but my sister will get here only in September. If you still require that please let me know the details

  13. Anil.S says:

    Hi Kalyan ,

    This is perhaps what is truly called ” WILD INDIA ” !!!

    Keep going and best of Luck .

  14. Raghu says:

    I hope the hyena does not end up swallowing pieces of the receiver. Nice pictures.
    Please be careful in the future about where you place the equipment :)

  15. Abhijeet says:

    Nice work there. Your work is overwhelming. Congratulations and All the best wishes for what you are doing.

  16. Diffusers says:

    Wow! awesome post. You made it more interesting with those pics.

  17. Omkar Nisal says:

    You are one awesome photographer AND a storyteller !

    Keep it up!


    You on facebook by any chance?

  18. Hi Kalyan,

    Is there any way in which I can contact you? I had mailed you a couple of times in the past, but I think you couldn’t reply due to back to back trips. If I can’t contact you right now, when are you back to Bangalore?



  19. sandeep says:

    awesome story and gr8 pictures … and u r apologizing for the quality :)

  20. naeem kazi says:

    nice work i want to ask you is there tiger hyena interaction in wild in india

  21. Swapna Sarit says:

    No Better way to get introduced to Wild India. Very interesting story and the photographs as well :)

  22. GRT shot and even greater story around it .

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