Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sometimes you don't find hyenas

For my experiment, I have specific hyenas that I want to find consistently, so I can expose them to the device repeatedly hoping they will learn. When I can't find them, I sometimes try the box on new hyenas that have never seen "the magical meat box". The goal is to get them habituated to it and make them part of a group of bold hyenas that are my favorites, because it is critical for my research project.

However, the Talek clan hyenas live in a wide territory, and can be hard to find (also true on the other side of the reserve, see Heidi's blog post about that). One evening, we were driving through the territory, and could not find any hyenas, not even a new one to try the box on. But, we saw lions that evening. And lucky for us, there was not a bazillion tour cars around them. Benson and Wilson are so sweet they always agree with my crazy ideas, even when it means getting out of the cars around 3 subadult male lions. And so, we put the box out baited with meat for those big guys. 

NB: No cameras or research assistants were harmed in the making of this video.

From the inside of the "magical meat box"

The hardest part was to get the box back... Benson and Wilson did not allow me to get out of the car, because as a "mzungu" (white/European person in Swahili) I did not know how to deal with a hungry/playful lion, but as Maasai, they do (Wilson already saved me from a lion in camp once, but that's another story). 

Early conclusions of that experiment: 
- lions are brutes
- lions are not afraid of novel objects AT ALL
- lions use their paws a lot more than hyenas
- Kong toys are indestructible (you can't see on this video, but at the very beginning, one lion ripped the toy off the rope and chewed on it for a minute, but not even a scratch was found on that toy. Also, the hyenas who have a very strong jaw don't damage them). 
- if we want to replicate that experiment, we need a VERY heavy box. 

Next time we can't find a hyena, we want to try it on a cheetah, with no tour cars and no hyenas around. Not an easy task...

1 comment:

dee said...

OK now you've gone and done it! We are ALL waiting to hear about how Wilson saved you from a lion, "the other time".

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science