Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nosy Neighbors

If being in Nairobi for the past week running errands has shown me anything, it’s how starkly unpopulated our neighborhood in the Mara is in comparison. But despite the lack of people, Fisi Camp is anything but quiet. Being in the middle of a wildlife reserve allows you to immerse yourself in a wide variety of resident fauna, and of course being an animal fanatic, I made it my goal to get to know each and every one. So without further ado, allow me to introduce some of our nosy neighbors.
Bubu coming to say hello
This guy seems to take the term nose-y quite literally. You may have met Bubu before in one of Amy’s earlier blog posts. We were introduced to this lonely guy about a month ago when he tried to step on our shower. Needless to say, stumbling into an elephant 30 meters away makes for an exhilarating and terrifying morning. We like to say that his almost daily visits to Talek camp are just his way of trying to make friends, since he seems to have left his herd behind. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s just using us for our delicious trees and convenient watering hole. Oh well…
Banded mongoose strolling past the lab tent
If you ever hear a quickly approaching cacophonous wave of peeping, you may be about to be attacked by a wild pack of mongooses. This little guy is part of a group of banded mongooses that rolls through the camp every few days. His cousins, the dwarf mongooses also have set up residence near our personal tents, and occasionally can be seen scampering about if you’re feeling especially lucky that day. These furballs may come off sweet and innocent at first but beware – like some other members of their family tree (slightly bigger furballs by the name of Crocuta crocuta), they are extremely resourceful. They’ll steal trash cans out from under your feet and try to scavenge inside your tent if you’re not careful!

When most look at this picture, the predominant reaction that comes to mind is a resounding “Awww.” But don’t be fooled – vervets are jerks. The jerkiest jerks in the whole Mara in fact. Turn away from the breakfast table for 5 seconds and you’d better believe that your peanut butter is long gone. Guess it’s dry toast for you today. Unloading the car from market day and you have to set the eggs on the table to unzip the kitchen tent? Big mistake. No more eggs for you. One would think that we padlock all the tents to keep intruders away. One might also think those intruders are human. Nope – vervets again. And when they’re done carrying away your meals, they’ll pee away the waste on top of your tent. They love to make a big stink about themselves – and yes, I mean that one literally too.

I’d like you to meet another jerk – the hyrax. For this guy, that title might not be as appropriate as The Most Terrifying Alarm Clock Alive. If you think this guy’s size puts a bit of a damper on the fear factor, I can promise you’re in for a shock. Their call starts out somewhere in the realm of that of a highly nocturnal crow, but don’t put yourself at ease yet. He’s just getting started. Slowly it builds into a crescendo that’s something in between nails on concrete and the literal gates of hell being opened, with just a sprinkle of haunted lawnmower thrown in. Oh and what’s that you hear? There are two of them calling to each other? And you have to walk back to your tent alone in the dark? Fantastic.

One of the few people who we share the area with are the local Maasai who live in and around Talek town. But we don’t see as much of them as we do their cows, who can sometimes wander off from their herder while grazing. Frankly when we see a herd of them tearing through camp, the first emotion I always feel is relief. Of all the large animals we’ve heard rustling in the bushes near camp, these guys are by far the friendliest. Even if they do steal all of our trees and leave us large lovely piles of cow patties all around camp to avoid…
Poor Remy off on his way to being released away from camp
An ode to Remy, our pet rat of 3 days: You came to us at breakfast, and we thought we could be friends. We fed you a piece of pineapple, you squeaked and ran around in circles, and everything was great. But then it all went wrong. You tried to bite my toe. Then you tried to invade our supplies. You have betrayed us my dear Remy, so in turn I had to betray you. When I tipped over the waste basket, you thought it was in friendship. Alas, it was not meant to be. We parted that day Remy, and I’m sorry about the look of betrayal in your eyes. But it had to be done. Farewell friend – we won’t forget you.
The lovely Elizabeth P
Here may be the most famous of our neighbors. Dubbed “Elizabeth P,” this lovely lady is a rock python of just under 2 meters. I first met her sunning by the river about 6 weeks ago. She’s quite a timid and demure lady, and a sighting of her is a rare and wonderful occurrence. Farewell Madam; I hope to see you again soon.

These are but a few of the many neighbors we share our lives with. Tiny insectivorous bats, inquisitive bush babies, overly friendly song birds, and ten million (yes, ten million) angry siafu ants make up a few of the rest, but there’s certainly too many to tell here. One thing that all these neighbors assure is that there’s never a quiet afternoon in Fisi Camp! 


dee said...

Great post! Thanks for not mentioning "you know who".

Kenna said...

If anyone is interesting in hearing the hyrax call so eloquently described above. This is what a not so terrible one sounds like:

Uncle Ron said...

And I thought raccoons were pests!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science