Monday, February 2, 2015

The “Where’s Waldo” effect

Put yourself if our shoes for one moment:

You are in the dry savanna. The hot sun beating down on your skin is setting along the horizon. There is tall golden grass as far as the eye can see. The car you are in is bumping down an unpaved, rock-laden, dirt road. You ask to pause the vehicle because you see a possible hyena in the distance. You put dusty binoculars to your eyes once the car is turned off because even the slow humming of the car disturbs your bino-vision. You scan the area to find that your hyena sighting is… just a rock.

This rock...NOT a hyena.
Photo by: Heidi Rogers

Even as seasoned research assistants, we tend to err on the side of caution when looking for hyenas. You never know if in fact what you think is a rock IS a hyena.

Can you see the hyena between these rocks?
Photo by: Eli Strauss

Perhaps a close-up will help...
Photo by: Eli Strauss

Even in relatively short grass, a hyena can still blend in.
Photo by: Molly McEntee

Rocks, of course, are not the only hyena mimicker. There are a plethora of bushes, grass clumps, and stumps that waste a good amount of our time in the search for hyenas. 

At the right distance and angle, this stump will get you every time.
Photo by: Heidi Rogers

There are other hyena impersonators living in the triangle, some of which are not even inanimate! Topi for one lope just like a hyena. The ears of warthogs poking out of the tall grass is another.

The "Where's Waldo" effect is a part of our everyday struggle in the search for hyenas. It is always a shameful admission of defeat that the reason we stopped the vehicle was to investigate a pile of elephant poop.


dee said...

The only thing worse than saying "hyena at three o'clock, from the back seat and being wrong, is NOT saying it and then having Kay see the animal seconds later!
Fun photos, thanks

Lily J-U said...

Ah that rock got me every time!! And that stump!!!

Great job spotting that hyena tucked into the rocks!!

EmilyThomas said...

That dang stump!

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