Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Sounds of a Clan War

Listen up!
Clan wars are disputes over territory boundaries, typically characterized by two “fronts” charging at one another. There can also be aggressions between clan members and a lot of vocalizations like whooping and giggling. When we come upon a clan war we record whenever one “front” approaches the other, and record which hyenas were leading the charge. We also note which other hyenas are present, but not getting too involved in the action.
So far, I have seen two clan wars between our Main Doc and KCM hyenas over an area containing a water source known as Maji Fisi. After the first clan war, it seemed like the border between the clans stayed about the same, but after this second clan war we have continued to see the KCM hyenas pushing into Main Doc territory. For now, it seems like Main Doc isnt quite ready to give up Maji Fisi, but maybe with another clan war our KCM hyenas will be able to claim Maji Fisi as their own!

Check out this video of our Main Doc and KCM hyenas intermingling during the September clan war- Volume up!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Cubs and their Lineages

To help us keep track of which hyenas are related to each other, when a hyena has her first litter of cubs, we assign her a lineage. All of her cubs are then named to fit the theme of the lineage. In order to officially assign a cub to a mom, we must see them nursing. Otherwise we are unable to tell for sure.

If we have a cub that we can repeatedly ID and they have not been seen nursing, we assign them a cub name, basically a nickname so that we can record that individuals specific behaviors. One of our hyenas, Burger, was seen nursing from two moms, and so she kept her cub name.

Here are some of my personal favorite lineages.

Clementine, who is a part of the "fruits" lineage:

Hail, who is a part of the "precipitation" lineage:

Dolohov, who is a part of the "Death Eaters" lineage:

Flame lily, who is a part of the "flowers" lineage:

Hola (on right) who is a part of the "Ways to say hello" lineage:

Pumba, who is a part of the "Disney Sidekicks" lineage:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ever seen a lion in a tree?

Last week Lily and I were out on obs in Main Doc territory looking for cognition trial candidates. However that search was quickly derailed when we turned the proverbial corner and found almost half of main doc facing off with 4 nearly full grown sub-adult male lions.
The hyena with the leg is Helios.

Although we came late to the party, I have a hypothesis for what precipitated this interaction. I think that the hyenas had made a kill next to the den, where upon these 4 young up-start lions thought that they could swagger up and swipe an easy meal from the hyenas. What the lions foolishly didn’t realize is that they walked into the literal “hyena’s” den, as almost the entire clan was using dens within a 1km radius of the faceoff. When the hyenas called for back up, a virtual horde of hyenas descended upon them. Main Doc’s beat down was so thorough that the lions kept climbing into trees in order to escape the relentless harassment. 

Unlike leopards, lions aren't nearly as graceful climbers.
He's reflecting on all his life decisions that led him to this point, and is regretting all of them.

In total, we counted 38 hyenas that were at least present during the battle, with possibly more that stayed in the lugga where the lions had been chased in. Often in the media, any lion-hyena interactions have the lions winning the fight and often killing some of the hyenas. So it was great to see the roles reversed and have the hyenas come out on top.

BUAR, the alpha of Main Doc, glows with satisfaction.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Black cub boom!

We have a lot of new moms (and new lineages) in our Main Doc clan! The other day we showed up to a den full of little black cubs running around and playing. Their spots are only just starting to come in so we can't tell any of them apart yet but there are several possibilities for the identities of the cubs pictured below. 

Every mom gets assigned a lineage, which is a theme for the names of all her children. This mnemonic device helps us remember who is related to who. KNOT is a first-time mom and her lineage is nautical words. Her first cub is Bowline. MAA has two new cubs (her third and fourth) and we've named them Daffodil and Tulip. Her lineage is flowers. JOUL is another first-time mom and we've given her the lineage "jewels". Her first cub is Emerald. KNOT (Knot) and JOUL (Joule) are both sisters from the "measurements" lineage. MAA (Maa) is from the languages lineage and is the name of the language of the Maasai people.

Sleeping next to an exhausted mom.

These guys are so little compared to the adults!

Learning how to make friends.

Curiously approaching the car. 

Learning how to paste on shrubs!

Look at that silly little face.

Hyena cubs play with sticks just like dog puppies. 

Too cute. Our job is such hard work dealing with all this cuteness.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Ostrich Love

While on the way to a den session in Pond territory, I came across a two ostriches in mid courtship.

Female ostrich "hen" in mid display to the male.

In general, we don't usually pay much attention to ostriches as hyenas rarely, if ever, hunt them. Most of the time when we see them, they're strutting majestically around in small flocks. Luckily enough I remembered to take a video because what followed was hilarious.

Reading up about ostriches, males establish territories between 2 - 20 sq km (.77 - 7.72 sq mi). After mating with 2-7 hens, he then digs out a pit for the females to lay their eggs in. On average there are about 20 eggs per nest. The females incubate the eggs during the day, while the male incubates them at night, both using their coloration as camouflage. While the ostrich egg is the largest and heaviest egg in the world: 5 cm (5.9 in) long, 13 cm (5.1 in) wide, and 1.4 kilograms (3.1 lb) in weight. They turn our to be the smallest eggs relative to adult body size of any bird species.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science