One of the main priorities of new RAs is to familiarize themselves with the hyenas, and the Talek camp is responsible for both Talek West and Fig Tree clans. Combined, there are around 200 hyenas that Talek West observes, and with hyenas having 2 sides, there are 400 unique sides to learn! It takes 2 – 3 months on average for a new RA to feel comfortable recognizing the majority of the hyenas.
RAs use patterns they see in the spots to identify hyenas. Single spots, shapes, or even pictures are used to ID a hyena. Some hyenas have obvious patterns that everyone sees, while other hyenas are more difficult to discern. Below is a picture of a hyena named Hope Solo (HOPE).
The RAs of Talek West each see a different pattern within his spots. Benson (Red) sees the word “IT” on her hind leg. Ashlei (Blue) sees a “S” in the same location. Wilson (Purple) sees the number “9” and the letter “I” on his side. Agathe (White) see the letter “U” on the side too, and Chase (Green) sees a face on the side as well.
Here are more examples of some hyenas with the patterns that I see on their sides.
|Tierra del Fuego (TIRA)|
|Cal Ripken Jr. (RPKN)|
To become more familiar with the patterns, senior RAs (everybody but me) quiz new RAs (me) on hyenas during morning and evening observation. This is how it goes:
Me: “I’m not really sure… Is it BAEZ?”
Benson: (Acerbic tone) “No. BAEZ has a collar.”
Chase: (Laughter) “BENSON!”
Me: “Give me a break! I have been here 3 weeks!”
In addition, there are other traits (such as collars) that can be used to ID hyenas, which Ashlei will share in a future blog.
Before I leave you, here is a quick quiz. Who is this hyena from above?