Getting bigger, sinking lower

The above photo of Yusuf and his hyenas looks pretty unremarkable. Well, it does if you’re accustomed to seeing someone feeding hyenas on a nightly basis. But it’s a telling and depressing photo when you know who the hyenas are. The one standing behind Yusuf is Willi and the ones in front are Burisee (formerly Fintamuree) and Dibbey (nearest the camera). Burisee is most likely Kooti’s cub and, when your mother is the highest ranking hyena in the clan, you get to feed undisturbed. Hence Dibbey, who is extremely aggressive and much bigger than Burisee, is standing beside the younger, smaller hyena and letting her do as she pleases. Dibbey’s rank is about three quarters of the way up the hierarchy of the clan and she knows her place. Dibbey also used to leave Willi well alone as his mother, Hadha Kumar, ranks about fourth highest and while Willi was a cub, he enjoyed the privileges that his mothers rank brought him. But little hyenas become big hyenas and, as a male reaches sexual maturity, his ranking slips away from him so that by the time he is sexually mature, he finds that, while he still ranks above all of those other males that he always outranked, his place in the overall hierarchy has dropped to below the lowest ranking female. In Willi’s case, his increasingly large testicles are causing him to become increasingly smaller fry and a target for any females that happen to have a bee in their bonnets. Dibbey has a very small bonnet that contains a lot of bees. I was speculating that Dibbey was responsible for the gaping wound that Willi had on his rump (which is now healed) a month ago and now I’m certain of that. Willi is so scared of the big female that he’s relinquished his place in front of Yusuf and has to stand behind the hyena-man waiting for food to be thrown over his shoulder. In the photo, he’s watching Dibbey and this is all that he does when they’re both present because, given any opportunity, Dibbey will attack him viciously. And worst (and saddest) of all is that he doesn’t hang around any more. I used to go and sit on the hill and Willi would amble over and sniff and try to bite or just hang out. But now after he comes to feed, he leaves straight away for the garbage dump, not feeling safe in Dibbey’s presence. I don’t really blame Dibbey, she’s just intrinsically aggressive and she’s probably expecting the young male to emigrate and find another clan in which to seek mates. But now that you have all this information, you might agree that the above is a such a very sad photograph.

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