Tastewise, knees win hands down

Last night I was sitting beside the road with some hyenas. There was a sick camel near the hyena hole in the town wall and the hyenas were very interested. There were also three guys sitting across the road from the camel, protecting it, so that every time a hyena went up to get a close look at the beast, they’d chase it off. Effectively it was a standoff. Jalla was lying close as she often does and there was also Willi. Willi (pictured from video) is probably the smallest (and cutest) of the hyenas that feed from the hyena man. There are a couple of others who are younger and possibly cuter, but it’s hard to tell because they’re too afraid to come and feed and instead they hide in the shadows and only come to look for scraps after all of the people, including myself, are out of sight. Willi, on the other hand, is intrigued with this situation where there is a human and if you go up to him, you get strips of meat. And you can read it in Willi’s body language when he’s amongst the bigger hyenas, watching them being fed and taking food whenever he can, trying to understand this way of feeding. But he doesn’t seem to have differentiated the hyena man from other humans because he also comes up to me, sniffing and expecting food.
Last night was again such a time. Willi came up to me where I was sitting on the rock, and he was sniffing as he always does. I sniffed back at him and stayed still so he wouldn’t be frightened. He sniffed my torch and then my hand (this is the first time I’ve felt a hyena’s nose) and then sniffed my knee. I think he decided that my knee smelt best because he opened his mouth to take a bite, the same way that a dog bites on a bone with the side of its mouth. Fortunately, he did it slowly enough that I had a chance to pull my knee away and hold up a finger to say no. This was enough to put him off and he gave up on the idea of me as food. But I’m convinced that he thinks the hyena man tears strips of meat off of himself and feeds them to the hyenas, and it was a logical progression to simplify the process by eating the strips directly from the human.

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