Thursday, June 10, 2010
Posted by Kay Holekamp at 9:56 AM
OK, you’ve seen from her blog posts that Kenna has a great sense of humor, but let me tell you a little bit about her ability as an observer of hyena behavior out here in the bush. We arrived at the den yesterday morning to find very little going on; no radio signals were coming in from there either, so we drove west from the den until we picked up Pan’s signal. We tracked Pan to a processional of 17 hyenas coming toward the den from the west, apparently the tail end of a border patrol along the territorial boundary separating Talek West and Fig Tree clans. The sight of 17 hyenas coming at you is mighty intimidating, but what’s really scary is trying to identify all these hyenas as they move past you in pretty quick succession. Kenna did that yesterday morning with astounding ease, particularly for someone who has only been here for 7 months! She never hesitated, and recognized each one individually as soon as she got only a few seconds to see it clearly. Most of these 17 hyenas eventually got spooked by some cattle and herdsmen, and vanished into the bushes along Den One Creek at about 7:15am. We then moved on to determine how many cubs Gucci had at her natal den (she has two!), and we discovered incidentally that her teenage daughter, Gelato, has a snare around her neck. We’ll have to try to get that off of her soon. While we were nervously watching Gucci’s newest cubs pull on the end of Gelato’s snare, we heard sounds of excited hyenas coming from further up the creek, and so set out to see what was going on. I thought Kenna’s identification skills had been put to the test earlier that morning, but what we found next made that earlier effort look like a piece of cake. This time the sounds led us to a group of 30 hyenas engaging in yet another border patrol but this time along the southern border of the clan’s territory. Once again, Kenna dazzled the rest of us (a brand new grad student and me) with her ability to identify all these hyenas, even though this time they were moving through tall grass for most of the distance covered. Being able to ID hyenas is not something one can fake, as we could easily check all of Kenna’s suggested hyena IDs against photos in our clan spot pattern albums (which we have in the car with us every day), and she was always correct. Check out these photos andimagine how you’d do trying to ID all these (what seemed like) zillions of hyenas. No small feat! Click on a photo if you want to see it blown up.