Similar to Tracy’s laments of hierarchical difficulties on the East side of the Mara, we’re experiencing some similar challenges over here in the West side operated by The Mara Conservancy. As I’m sure you faithful bloggers out there know, when an alpha female dies, the new highest ranking in the clan should be her youngest (and able) daughter. Although it seems really simple to us onlookers as to who should move to the top, the actual process of this occurring is usually less cut and dry.
Some background before I dive too deep: A little over a month ago, we lost our alpha female in our Happy Zebra clan over here to lions.
Even though we’ve only been following clans on this side of the park intensively since 2008, KOI was a tough hyena that we all liked to think ruled with an “iron-paw.” Finding out the new alpha of a clan is always exciting, as this determines a bit of how the clan functions in the future. Because of this, these are always exciting times in the Mara!
To understand the top of the hierarchy in her clan, here’s a snippet from the front of our Happy Zebra binder. Each binder has a “Clan List” that displays the linear hierarchy and members of the clan. To keep track of familial relationships, every cub that an individual female produces gets placed at one tab over, and then all of their cubs also get tabbed over as well. Therefore at the time of her death, Koi had 5 surviving cubs that we know of-- Coelecanth, Barracuda, Snapper, Pike, and Sawtooth (types of fish lineage). PIKE, SNAP, and SAW have all survived to reproduction and have produced their own cubs.
KOI - f
COEL (31Aug10) - f
BARR (31Aug10) - m
PIKE (30Oct07) - f
ADL (28Feb11) - ?
BOOM (16Feb10) - f
KATA (16Feb10) - m
SNAP (30Oct07) - f
GLET (13Oct10) - m
SAW - f
SGL (15Nov10) - f
HALA (15Nov10) - m
With Koi out of the picture, the throne should go to COEL. However, because she (and her brother BARR) were only 9 months old at the time of their mom’s death, we all expected they would perish given how dependent cubs at this age are of their mothers (cubs can nurse for up to 18 months!).
That’s why to my surprise, this morning we saw COEL and BARR looking pretty healthy at a topi carcass with both PIKE and SNAP. They’ve now survived over a month following their mom’s death, and seem to be doing just fine. Maybe they’re really good opportunists? Maybe PIKE and SNAP are still unsure of how to treat them and are allowing them to trail along on hunting expeditions and kills? Maybe PIKE and SNAP want more allies to help them in the future and see this as something that will directly benefit them later in life? Whatever the answer is, these two are still around.
Although most of us hyena researchers out here feel that PIKE will most certainly jump over them to take the position of alpha, we are all interested in seeing if COEL and BARR can make it to adulthood. I think if they can make it through this first month and have latched onto their older and wiser sisters, things could be bright for their future.
We’ll keep you posted and check back soon!