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).