Monday, February 6, 2017

Celebrity Sighting: Miss Falafel Fierce

Ok listen, Falafel is everything a hyena should be and more. She is my celebrity crush – if I were a tech-savvy preteen I would have an Instagram page devoted to her. She is as her name (that I’ve just given her for the sake of this post) suggests, fierce.

Falafel having a nap. Photo cred: Emily Bray Cohen
I “met” Falafel through volunteering in the hyena lab a year and a half ago. I was a super senior looking for something to fill my time while I finished up some classes and luckily Kenna had some interesting data to comb through. I was looking through the context data for a specific vocalization, the giggle. Giggles are possibly the most famous of the hyena vocalizations, and for good reason. Giggles really do sound like manic laughter, Hollywood got that part right. Giggles are emitted during confrontational interactions (i.e. when a hyena is being aggressed on or when they are aggressing on someone). While looking through all this aggression data one name in particular kept cropping up, Falafel. Now Falafel is a really low ranking hyena. I mean REALLY low ranking, there is only one lineage lower than her, and most of those hyenas are dead. But in a ton of these aggressions Falafel Fierce was the aggressor. Often times she was aggressing on a higher ranking hyena! And even after countless smack downs from those high rankers, she was still up for a fight. Why? Because she has moxie, that’s why. You just have to love that spirit.

I made it out to the field for my year as an RA in October, and I was dying to see Falafel in real life. My love for her could not be contained, so people started to tell me their best Falafel stories. My favorite one goes like this:
Falafel and a number of clan members were challenging a couple lions for a carcass. Falafel, being the nasty gal she is, goes diving into the mess of lions head first. Obviously, she got her butt whooped, but that’s not the best part. The part that I love is that despite her being low ranking, the other members of the clan jumped in after her and PULLED HER OUT OF THE FRAY. That’s truly amazing because normally low ranking hyenas can count on very few allies. The higher rankers could easily have used the distraction and snagged the food, but instead they grabbed Miss Fierce. It would appear that Falafel is a strangely popular low ranker? I can’t say for sure.

A picture I took the day we met. You can tell that she is equally as enthused.
That story, and others like it, only made my adoration for Falafel grow. I was looking for her everywhere. It had been exactly a month since I had been in the Mara when finally, we got a call saying Falafel was near us in the territory! We rushed over and sure enough, my girl was there rolling around in a bush. She was filthy. Her fur was completely matted and when she stood up to stretch we could tell that she had obviously just eaten. Falafel was so full that she waddled when she walked. Her belly was making it difficult for all four of her legs to reach the ground at once. She was the most disgusting hyena I had ever seen. It was awe inspiring.

Soon after our first meeting, Falafel gave birth (yes!). In order to take care of her little cubs she spends a lot of time at the communal den, and we get to see her all the time. She is just as filthy as ever. I've had a few months to observe her by now, and from what I can tell she loves nothing more than a good fight and a good nap - how relatable. 
In short: Falafel >>> everyone else.
Well done, Falafel. Keep on keeping on, you disgusting thing.

Falafel as a wee tot. Photo cred: Jaime Tanner

Falafel with one her newest wee tots, Mavi or McG! Photo cred: Rebecca Lafleur

1 comment:

jinny2290 S said...

Wow!!! Awesome read... ty for sharing

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