Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Leaping Leopards

A few weeks ago we were on our way to the communal den in Pond territory when we got side tracked by one of the best leopard sighting I've ever seen! A mom and her nearly full-grown daughter were traveling down a lugga.
Daughter (top) and Mother (bottom).
 While this pair had been seen by the other R.A.'s this was my first time seeing them, and they didn't disappoint. While we were following them, not only did we get both in very striking poses:

Mother looking at my soul.
The daughter scent marking
 We also got to see the daughter practice her hunting skills on mom!

 Top cap it all Lily even got an amazing shot of one of the them trying to catch a Reedbuck that they had unknowingly spooked out of the bushes.

Swing and a miss

It was a real treat to see such animals and behavior in the day time. Working in the Mara is the job that keeps on giving.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Thanksgiving in Kenya

This Thanksgiving was the first one I spent away from family. As a native Michigander it was hard to get in the holiday mood with green trees and no leaves on the ground. Luckily I had my Fisi family to celebrate with me.

In the field we alternate who hosts holidays. Halloween was in Serena, so Thanksgiving was in Talek. Emily and I left right after obs on Wednesday to drive to the other camp. We took the back roads and got to see the beautiful hills of the Reserve. We arrived early enough to go to the Talek market day, where I bought some kanga fabric.

Maasai market in Talek town
On Thanksgiving proper, the whole group cooked. I made sweet potatoes beforehand, and we brought a turkey all the way from Nairobi.  Leah, Lily, Mary, Jack, and Emily washed, peeled, and chopped potatoes and garlic under the watchful eye of the Joseph, the Talek chef. Leah fried up some excellent chapati, and Jack made chocolate chip cookies. We headed to Base Camp, a nearby lodge, to look at some beading by the Maasai Mamas.

The Fisi Family
At 3pm the 16 of us (6 Americans and 10 Kenyans) sat down to eat. For dinner we had American classics like turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy, but we also had chapati, sukuma, lentils, traditional Kenyan dishes. Dessert was some truly amazing pumpkin pie.

It was interesting to experience Thanksgiving, an American holiday, while in a foreign country. In the spirit of the holiday I took the time to think about what I am thankful for this year. I have a fantastic job and great co-workers. I have my health. I live in a time where I was able to call my family and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. 

But this year I was struck by how privileged I am. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, doing the kind of research I have dreamed about since middle school. I am able to learn from the Kenyan people about their culture and history. I am deeply thankful for the opportunities I have been presented with, and I remind myself daily how lucky I am to be able to experience this journey.

And with that, I wish you all a (belated) Happy Thanksgiving. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Sounds of a Clan War

Listen up!
Clan wars are disputes over territory boundaries, typically characterized by two “fronts” charging at one another. There can also be aggressions between clan members and a lot of vocalizations like whooping and giggling. When we come upon a clan war we record whenever one “front” approaches the other, and record which hyenas were leading the charge. We also note which other hyenas are present, but not getting too involved in the action.
So far, I have seen two clan wars between our Main Doc and KCM hyenas over an area containing a water source known as Maji Fisi. After the first clan war, it seemed like the border between the clans stayed about the same, but after this second clan war we have continued to see the KCM hyenas pushing into Main Doc territory. For now, it seems like Main Doc isnt quite ready to give up Maji Fisi, but maybe with another clan war our KCM hyenas will be able to claim Maji Fisi as their own!

Check out this video of our Main Doc and KCM hyenas intermingling during the September clan war- Volume up!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Cubs and their Lineages

To help us keep track of which hyenas are related to each other, when a hyena has her first litter of cubs, we assign her a lineage. All of her cubs are then named to fit the theme of the lineage. In order to officially assign a cub to a mom, we must see them nursing. Otherwise we are unable to tell for sure.

If we have a cub that we can repeatedly ID and they have not been seen nursing, we assign them a cub name, basically a nickname so that we can record that individuals specific behaviors. One of our hyenas, Burger, was seen nursing from two moms, and so she kept her cub name.

Here are some of my personal favorite lineages.

Clementine, who is a part of the "fruits" lineage:

Hail, who is a part of the "precipitation" lineage:

Dolohov, who is a part of the "Death Eaters" lineage:

Flame lily, who is a part of the "flowers" lineage:

Hola (on right) who is a part of the "Ways to say hello" lineage:

Pumba, who is a part of the "Disney Sidekicks" lineage:

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science