Nocturnal camera trap pics show rare carnivore standoff

Leopards and brown hyenas are being studied for zoo-supported project in Zimbabwe

A rarely seen nocturnal encounter between a leopard and a brown hyena was photographed during a recent carnivore research project supported by the Oregon Zoo.

Shot with camera traps on March 12, the images depict a brown hyena — a different species from the better-known spotted hyena — investigating a leopard trapped by the Chipangali Wildlife Trust in Zimbabwe's Matobo National Park. The hyena lingered for five minutes before moving on.

"These are the two species we're currently focusing on, so it's particularly exciting to see both in one photo," said deputy zoo director Chris Pfefferkorn, who is also a project coordinator for Zimbabwe-based Chipangali Wildlife Trust. "There's a lot we don't know about the relationship between these predators, but it's unlikely that the hyena would have approached the leopard if it wasn't in a steel cage."

The leopard had been trapped earlier that night as part of a tracking study. The following morning, researchers took the cat's measurements and fitted it with a GPS collar before releasing it.

Livestock-predator conflicts are common in Zimbabwe, where hunting leopards is legal. Pfefferkorn and the Chipangali Wildlife Trust researchers are collecting baseline data about leopard populations and movements to better understand how to manage the big cats.

The Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, Western pond turtles and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
General zoo admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

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