Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy Birthday Navajo

In a recent turn of events, I gained another year of life and welcomed my 23rd birthday. This of course was a momentous day filled with hyena observations, feasting, and, of course, dancing.

Such a day usually gives way to natural reminiscing and life ponderings such as: am I an adult now? What is my purpose? Why is all the cake gone?

However, the day before my womb emergence anniversary, November 7th warranted a more deserving birthday celebration. That of Navajo, the world’s oldest recorded living wild hyena. She turned twenty-two, just one year younger than myself. Although we may be similar in age, Navajo was probably asking quite different questions; for example:

How did I get here?

Check out those beaten ears! Navajo relaxes on her birthday 2014.

Who are these strange people looking at me from a car?

Navajo staring inquisitively at the car in 2008. Photo: Audrey DW

And most importantly, where have all the wildebeest gone?

A sleepy and dirty Navajo appears perplexed in 2006. Photo: Jaime Tanner

I’ve pooled past researchers/grad-students/RAs/etc. (thank you Tracy Montgomery for the facebook post and all those who sent in pictures) and they were able to send me some pretty dashing pictures of the ol’ girl. Strangely enough, she has looked relatively the same for the past six years.

Navajo on her 21st birthday last year. Photo: Julie Turner

Although we share the same birthday, Navajo and I have made quite different life choices. I chose to pursue an education in biology at a university, Navajo was mostly home/field-schooled and utilized independent learning. I have only seen the U.S. presidents in pictures/videos and history books, Navajo gave birth to a whole lineage of them (Obama, Roosevelt, Carter, Reagan, etc.) Additionally, I’ve always preferred my steak medium-rare, whereas Navajo tends to eat her meals while the animal is still alive.

But, we do have one similarity, we were probably both nursing around the same time.

In a lucky chance encounter, Navajo appeared and gave us her classic stare on the morning of her birthday November 7th, 2014. Photo: Chase O'Neil

Between January 1993 and December 2011, Navajo has been observed in 3541 of our research sessions (from Amiyaal Liany.) At this point, I can’t imagine Talek West without her omnipresence. So with that, happy birthday to Navajo.

Navajo gnawing on a carcass in July 2014. Photo: Chase O'Neil 

Unfortunately, I have not seen Navajo around a lot and thus have not collected many stories. So please feel free to include fun Navajo memories in the comment section!

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