Friday, October 24, 2014

Elephants, Hyenas, and Humans, oh my!

A very important realization hit me whilst living life in Fisi camp: the simple acknowledgement of my species (human beings) physical abilities. Specifically, that we are slightly pathetic compared to others in the animal kingdom. Minimal claws, size, and running abilities, in addition to poor endurance in harsh weather (what other animal creates a ridiculous item such as mittens) should be humbling attributes at the very least. This blog entry is a testament to this realization. (Warning: the blog contains little scientific ponderings. You will not learn anything from this post besides perhaps an appreciation for life.)

A few of the remarkable beasts from the Mara.
Human beings in their natural habitat

The epiphany of my pitiful existence arrived when Kenna and I were out on morning obs. With the last bit of darkness receding, we watched hyenas to the sounds of the early birds chirping and the insects buzzing. How typical and tranquil. Or so I thought…

We heard a grumbling and growling coming from the bushes and looked at each other.

“Was that a lion?” I whispered. 

“I think so…” she nodded. Then it grew quiet again. The hyenas seemed unconcerned. “We should probably investigate,” she suggested starting the car with a cheeky grin.
The unconcerned hyenas
We stealthily drove towards the bushes, creeping along until we practically became part of the foliage. At this point, we were both excited and terrified and she nervously giggled, “It’s kinda like Jurassic Park.” Suddenly my mind was flooded with images, most of which did not help the situation.

Luckily, my thoughts of dinosaur acid spit burning my eyes or a T-Rex crushing me in a public bathroom stall were interrupted by a magnificent trumpet. An elephant! My mind calmed, I brought out my camera for a National Geographic quality picture. Kenna, on the other hand, was much wiser.

The elephants begin to emerge from the bushes...
“Let’s get out of here!” And with a quick shift of gears, she spun the car around and put a great distance between us and the largest animals on the continent. You see, like the dinosaurs in Jurassic park, elephants are quite adept at trampling people. Even if you are in a car, you should take extra precaution because they are aggressive and territorial (especially a mama elephant with junior in tow.)
Kenna and I had been trekking through these bushes less than five minutes before these guys came out.
However apparently, hyenas are hardly afraid of these majestic people-crushers as shown by the pictures below. Eventually, the herd of elephants emerged from the bushes. There were at least 12 of them! But, the hyenas hardly moved an inch (or a centimeter if you will.) In fact, a few never even woke up from their morning slumber. Meanwhile I had already begun stress-eating, littering my lap with ginger snap cookie wrappers. Hey, you can’t be choosy for your last meal.

The hyenas seem relatively calm.

Penne, a natal male, stares idly into space whilst the herd passes by.

In conclusion, compared to the elephant or the hyena, we are the weakest link. We may have very active imaginations, creative minds (who needs those?), and opposable thumbs, yet when giant elephants decide to come rampaging through a morning obs session, it’s best if we humans back away quickly.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a very old post on hyenas mothering instincts. Elephants had decided to move through one of the dens and there was a striking picture of one particular hyena standing over her den hole, meters away from the elephants putting herself between them and her cubs.

First time I read it I thought 'what a brave hyena' but perhaps they're just not very afraid of elephants?

dee said...

I remember that! I think it was in the Mother of the Year contest, and I think it was Waffle and I think she won. But I've had many senior moments since then.
Great post and I love the pictures. Thanks!

dee said...

P.S. The humans are too cute!

Anonymous said...

Blog posts 10/6/2010 & 12/4/2010 are about the Mom of the Year contest and elephants and yes, Waffle did win! Check the posts out. Just as an extra added attraction, a post in between those two is about the rampage through camp by hyenas, lions, and one terrified hippo. Damage was done.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science