Hello all! My name is Benson Pion and this is a blog about how I joined the group as a Fisi camper. The Hyena project is actually one year older than me. I never even thought I could work with the project. How great!
When I was just a young boy and before I joined the project, I would look after cows along the Talek river inside the reserve. But, I would run and hide in the bushes every time I saw Hyena research vehicles. That is because our hyena project cars are mostly land-cruisers, and they closely resemble county council park rangers. I thought it was park rangers coming to punish me! I had no idea that people were studying hyenas here!
The day I arrived, I was welcomed to Fisi camp by two gentlemen named John Keshe and James Kerempe, who work as kitchen and camp maintenance staff. The camp is along Talek river. The tents are spread out under big trees called Fig trees, bicolas shrubs, ever-green trees, and Acacias. All these made it really difficult for me to find camp, until I called James and John to help me find the way. John and James took me around and gave me a brief tour of camp. I enjoyed it and I liked the camp very much.
A few months after, I got a call from James saying that I was welcomed to Fisi camp to work. What an exciting day! When I arrived here for the second time, John had left and it was just James and Joseph working here. Following that, I met a wonderful girl known as Leslie Curren who was a research assistant at that time. She was very friendly and I even learned a little Spanish (pocito espanol!) from her.
My work at that time was to make camp as clean as possible and learn from James and Joseph on how to cook and prepare different meals for research assistants. After a few months, James left. Then it came to a moment that I had to improve my skills and learn quickly to help Joseph on meal preparations. Joseph was pretty new too by then, so we both worked hard.
“Practice makes perfect,” and so I soon became professional on meal preparation (thank goodness!) But, I had always been interested in wildlife studies. So, after a year and a half as a cook, and I began to apply for a field work to study more.
That was the day when I sat down and wrote an application letter to my boss, Kay Holekamp. I applied for a job as a research assistant. I was happy to receive my approval back and I suddenly became a research assistant in June 2011. Thank you to Tracy Montgomery and Brian Lunardi who were research assistants at that time, for a great welcoming to a field of hyenas and teaching me a lot!
Being a cook and being a research assistant are different experiences. Even though I loved cooking meals with Joseph, I enjoyed observing and recording hyena behavior much more because I have a dream of receiving an undergraduate degree in the future, and I thought field work in science would be the first step to gain knowledge.
Since I started observing and recording hyena behavior, I have learned more about wildlife in general. In fact, I have passed wildlife examinations and could teach you a lot about East African birds, mammals, trees, and flowers. So I am happy working in the field because it is giving me a clear view on what to study in the future.
Let me take you back to my first paragraph. Look at this! Right now, the little boys who look after cows seem to always get scared and run away when they see me driving around looking for hyenas. They think I am a Park ranger on a patrol similar as what I was used to think. What a great life moving forward.