Just in time for Halloween, we had a ghost in camp. Benson and I were working in the lab tent when I got a text from Emily, who’d been looking at gps points from our collared animals. She asked us whether we’d seen Pan around, since her collar was active again and had been sending in points from around the territory, though she added that there were a lot of points in camp. At first, I was really puzzled, since Pan was a hyena that died a few months before I arrived. They found her body and collected her collar and skull, but she was too far gone to determine what killed her. So now we were receiving gps points from a dead hyena all over the territory.
For a brief moment, I wondered if there was any way Pan could still be alive. After all, we’d seen some hyenas in our other two clans that had been on the missing list, most recently Muhammad Ali, who hadn’t been seen in over two and a half years. However, I’d held Pan’s skull, which seemed pretty definitive.
It was Benson who solved the mystery: We had a new collar in the darting box with the same frequency as Pan’s, and the magnet (which we use to stop collars sending out points until we deploy them) had come off. So every day when we went out with the darting supplies, the collar sent out another point from somewhere in the territory, but most of the time it was in camp. It also explained why we’d had inexplicably large amounts of interference on the tracking some mornings.
Then, last night we saw Pan’s grand-cubs and I couldn’t help but think of how much impact a single hyena can have in the future of the clan, depending on how many of their offspring survive. Maybe that’s all that Pan’s ghost was trying to tell us.