David Yarrow_No_Laughing_Matter_Hilton_Asmus_Contemporary

South Africa, 2019

I know 2 things from photographing hyenas. The first is that they have a few idiosyncrasies – they run funny, smell funny and with their oversized heads and large ears, they look dead funny too. Maybe they are just laughing at themselves – a good sign in any mammal.

I don’t actually think many of us really know exactly what hyenas look like because, they are the least photographed of all the storied animals in Africa. We are not familiar with them as we don’t revere them – indeed to be called a hyena, has become a term of abuse, which seems rather unfair on a species that adds to the rich fauna of sub-Saharan Africa. Hyenas are clearly useful additions to animated films and musicals as they can be demonised and portrayed as the bad guys.

But here is the other thing about hyenas which slightly plays towards their stereotyping of being the villains – they don’t respect camera equipment at all. I am sometimes asked which animal destroys the most camera equipment. Elephants kick my remote cameras in Amboseli, lions will confiscate the camera, but get bored after a while, whilst bears and bison could not be less interested.

But the adult female hyena in this photograph, picked up some of my equipment from the ground and I watched from the safety of my cage as it was broken up into 30 different pieces over a 5-minute period of intense brutality. It is the first and last time, I will leave camera equipment on the ground if there are hyenas in the area.

Luckily my memory card which contained this photograph was not a victim of the assault. It was taken from my cage on a 58mm lens – I am not sure many have tried that with a bunch of hyenas before. I would not take risks with them – they could live up to their name and that would not be funny.



  • Image: 56" x 87" (143 cm x 221 cm)
  • Framed: 67" x 98" (171 cm x 249 cm)


  • Image: 37" x 57" (94 cm x 145 cm)
  • Framed: 48" x 68" (122 cm x 173 cm)

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