Monday, May 2, 2016

April showers bring...?

We are in the midst of the Masai Mara's long rainy season right now.

When it rains during this time of year, it pours.

When it pours, we can't go out into the Mara to study hyenas.

Why?  Well, here's what our driveway looks like after it rains here in Talek Camp:
Rain in the territory prevents us from leaving camp to observe hyenas because it makes the roads VERY WET, so:
1) it increases our likelihood of getting a car stuck and doing damage to the car (costly and, potentially, dangerous, not to mention a waste of valuable time and resources)
2) it increases our likelihood of leaving tire tracks in the Mara when we go off road, which could cause ecological damage (i.e. erosion)
3) not being able to access certain areas due to the muddiness can result in us not being able to follow hyenas when they go off road, not being able to reach hyena dens, etc. (essentially, not being able to collect as much data as we normally would)

So... yeah.  If it has been raining a lot, we don't go out.

As you can imagine, the rain has often been a source of disappointment for me, a new, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed research assistant eager to go out into the field.  Here in Talek Camp we have not been able to go out on "obs" (observations) for over a week now due to rain.

Even so, we keep busy.  There is always work to be done here in camp - tent maintenance, supply inventories, printing hyena photos, and more.  And while my training has been inhibited at times by a lack of field time due to downpours, I have figured out ways to practice identifying individual hyenas and their behaviors even when we can't go out into the field.

Ciara and I study a video of hyena interactions at a carcass.  A poor substitute for the real thing, but still useful practice.
The rains also bring many benefits to the Mara. They provide water essential for plant life to thrive.  They help the grasses grow, creating a feast for the wildebeest who migrate into the Mara by the hundreds of thousands from July to October.  They give overworked research assistants for the Mara Hyena Project a chance to sleep in (wait, who said that?).

In conclusion, every cloud has a silver lining.  Rain or shine, I am here in the Mara, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and I never want to take that fact for granted.  I will wait this wet time out with patience, trusting that soon enough, we will get to go out and study our beloved hyenas again.

In the meantime, see the video below for what we did today.

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