By Marc Alexander from his ‘In The Balance‘ series. Spotted Hyenas, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 80cm by 140cm, (2016).
In this artwork, I have emphasized the dominance of the ‘Alpha’ females in the background, who have had the first pickings of the abandoned carcass and ae now keeping a watchful eye over the tension developing between the male on the left and his young rival on the right. There is a definite pecking order within the pack.
In general, the spotted hyena is a highly successful animal, being the most common large carnivore in Africa. Its success is due in part to its adaptability and opportunism; it is primarily a hunter but may also scavenge, with the capacity to eat and digest skin, bone and other animal waste. In functional terms, the spotted hyena makes the most efficient use of animal matter of all African carnivores. The spotted hyena displays greater plasticity in its hunting and foraging behaviour than other African carnivores; it hunts alone, in small parties of 2–5 individuals or in large groups. During a hunt, spotted hyenas often run through ungulate herds to select an individual to attack. Once selected, their prey is chased over a long distance, often several kilometres, at speeds of up to 60 km/h. One of my oldest fondest memories was a visit to my grandparents and seeing my grandmother’s red-factor canaries.