Saturday, June 22, 2013

Battle for the Elephant Carcass

A lot of the time, we barely see our hyenas. On the Serena side especially, there’s tall grass that makes it very hard to find them, and when we do, we usually only see a few at a time. However, occasionally we stumble upon crazy things. And here comes the magic of the GPS collars that we now have on some of the hyenas; we sometimes see areas where their GPS points converge. We hadn’t been seeing the hyenas in our North clan much, and the ones we were seeing looked a little beat up. This piqued our curiosity at camp, and we found that their GPS points were clustering in an area near the border of their territory that we rarely go to. So, we decided to go there one morning.

Driving to the area of the GPS points, we start to smell the pungent odors of hyena vomit, poop, and paste. The hyenas had clearly been there recently. As we are being deafened by the beeps indicating we were close to one of the hyenas with a GPS collar, we drove into a thicket of bushes and finally found the female we were tracking. As we start to look around the bushy area we are in, we see one head, then another and another emerge from the bushes, and we realize that nearly the entire clan must be here since we see about twenty hyenas appear. All of the sudden, everyone starts to move forward, so we follow. While we are frantically trying to identify everyone we happened across, a group of about ten hyenas charge through the bushes toward us and our North Clan hyenas. Looking around wondering what on earth is happening, we realize that we don’t recognize any of the incoming hyenas who made all of the ones we were working on identifying flee.

The charging hyenas go back the way they came, and the North clan starts moving forward again. This time, they move further forward; we emerge from the bushy thicket into an open area and see a mountain covered in vultures and hyenas that we don’t recognize. We quickly realize that we are seeing two clans, Oloololo and North, fighting over a relatively new elephant carcass.


North (right) approaching the elephant carcass surrounded by vultures and Oloololo hyenas

Initially the two clans appear to have nearly equal numbers. The Oloololo clan is in control of the carcass, and the North keeps trying to move forward to take the carcass, but Oloololos chase them back into the bushes at each attempt.


North approaches and gets chased back into the bushes

Slowly, some of the Oloololos get their fill and start to wander off, decreasing their numbers. The North hyenas become more bold, getting closer to the carcass with each attempt before being chased off. Finally, they use their full force to chase off the remaining Oloololo hyenas and take control of the carcass.


North hyenas on the carcass with Oloololos off to the left

The North clan ate their fill that morning. Every time we returned to the carcass after that, the Oloololo hyenas had the carcass while some of the North clan was on the fringe. It seems that Oloololo won the war, but we saw an exciting battle along the way. It was also amazing to see the decay of the carcass over the next couple days.


Day1, day 2, day 3

Sometimes things can be really exciting here!

1 comment:

dee said...

Thanks Julie, great post I
wish I could have seen it!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science