New York Post
Two-year-old Kiki Wolhuter, of Zimbabwe, is a lifelong fan of the smiling, carnivorous mammals. The child’s parents introduced her to the predators when she was an infant, bringing her a hyena to cuddle.
Kiki was always destined for a more animal-full life than most. Her dad, Kim Wolhuter, is a wildlife filmmaker and hyena expert, raising his daughter with her mother, Saskia, at Zimbabwe’s Sango Wildlife Lodge.
The trick to befriending the dangerous species, says Kim, 61, is to not feed them. That way, they only come to him expecting love, affection and playtime — but never food.
Recently, he introduced Kiki to a whole pack of the fierce animals.
“I had been running and playing with the hyenas that morning and she pleaded with me that she wanted to run with them,” Kim tells Caters. “I was reluctant at first, because generally hyenas react very differently to small beings. But she begged me and so I thought if I held her, it would be fine.”
The younger hyenas were curious about Kiki, and after a good sniff of her, they decided it was playtime.
“I just had to be careful they didn’t nip her. I think once they get more familiar with her, I’ll have to be more careful they don’t hurt her. There’s nothing ‘malicious’ in their play. It is just play,” says Kim, noting that hyenas often give puppy bites which, while intended to be playful, can have painful results for a child as young as Kiki.
But, so far, the aggressive animals have shown her nothing but tender love, and she thinks of them like many children think of regular household pets.
“For her, these are just more animals. For her, they seem like domestic animals because dad plays with them,” says Kim.
While playing with hyenas should be acceptable, Kim feels Disney’s “The Lion King” has made the creatures out to be villainous.
“Today, this film is probably the singular foremost reason why people hate hyenas,” says Kim.