Thursday, March 15, 2018

Martials in the Mara

In addition to our beloved hyenas, we see a few other creatures around the grasslands.

A month ago, I witnessed a Martial Eagle defend her recently-killed meal of a White Stork from a pair of Grey Crowned Cranes. I passed the video onto the Maasai Mara Martial Eagle Project, where I learned this behavior is very unusual, and it was likely the cranes had a nest nearby. It is always fun to witness new behaviors, even if they aren't preformed by our hyenas!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Miss/Mr Mara

From some of my recent photos, I have chosen 11 contestants for the Miss/Mr Mara beauty pageant.  Lets meet them! 

MGTA (Magenta) 
      Clan: Main Doc
      Sex: female 
      Age: Adult with cubs

RPRT (Rupert) 
      Clan: KCM
      Sex: unk 
      Age: Subadult 

TWST (Twister) 
       Clan: Main DOC 
       Sex: Female 
       Age: adult with cubs

LORD (lord of the dance)
      Clan:Main DOC
       Sex: male 
      Age: subadult

EMRA (emerald)
       Clan: Main DOC 
        Sex: male 
        Age: cub 

       Clan: Main DOC 
       Sex: male 
       Age: adult

LGND (Legend)
        Clan: Main DOC 
        Sex: Female
         Age: subadult 

       Clan: KCM 
        Sex: Male
       Age: subadult 

DOGP (dogpile) 
        Clan: KCM 
        Sex: unk
        Age: subadult 

TC (traverse City) 
         Clan: Main DOC
         Sex: male 
         Age: adult 

Now that weve met the contestants, they will be ranked in three categories. Clarity of spots, uniqueness of pattern (the more unique the spots the easier they are to ID), and overall appearance. They will be ranked out of 5 by each of our 4 judges (Allie, research assistant, Connie, grad student, Maggie, grad student, and myself, research assistant). 

   Spots: 2
   Patterns: 1.75
   Overall appearance: 2.75

    Total: 6.5/15

   Spots: 4
   Patterns: 3.6
   Overall appearance: 4.12


   Spots: 1.8
   Patterns: 2.25
   Overall appearance: 4.25

    Total: 8.3/15

    Spots: 4.6
   Patterns: 4.1
   Overall appearance: 4.5

    Total: 13.2/15

   Spots: 3.75
   Patterns: 3.75
   Overall appearance: 4.8

    Total: 12.3/15

   Spots: 1
   Patterns: 1.75
   Overall appearance: 3.5

    Total: 6.25/15

   Spots: 3.5
   Patterns: 4.12
   Overall appearance: 4.8

    Total: 12.67/15

   Spots: 5
   Patterns: 3.12
   Overall appearance: 4.3

    Total: 12.42/15

   Spots: 1.2
   Patterns: 1.5
   Overall appearance: 2.8

    Total: 5.5/15

   Spots: 2.8
   Patterns: 3
   Overall appearance: 4.25

    Total: 10.05/15




The Crippling and Recovery of Rosalina

The month of December was a tumultuous time for Pond clan. Around that time Aquamarine (AQUA) took over the clan from Juno and Guava and (we think) Clementine were both found dead. Another casualty of this period was Rosalina aka LINA.

LINA before she was injured.
LINA, with her sister Goomba, are Carter’s youngest kids currently, and she was fat and adorable. However that all changed on December 17th when I found her at the den with the bottom quarter of her left back leg missing. 

First time LINA seen with her injury

How she lost part of her leg we have no idea. She might’ve lost it from a lion trying to grab her, or from another hyena during AQUA’s takeover. Whatever the cause, things looked extremely grim for LINA’s chances of survival and she became very skinny.

Happily though, spotted hyenas are nothing if not tough, and their ability to survive pretty grievous injuries is well known. For instance, a few years ago in the Mara conservancy there was an adult female hyena who survived with both back legs crippled for nearly a year, long enough to successfully wean her kids. Today while LINA isn’t fully recovered, her wound has healed up well, she’s gained a little more weight, and is starting to explore farther out from the den again. The hope is that if she can survive until the wildebeest come, there will be enough food around to where she might make a nearly full recovery. (recovery photo pending when I see her again.)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Uncle FERG visits the den

One of my favorite behaviors to watch is play, even more so when some individuals that I wouldn’t expect to play do so. Lately FERG, the subadult son of our matriarch WAFLs, has spent a lot of time at the den playing with the cubs. 

FERG playing with his favorite playmate, little BFG.
While he is bigger, stronger, and out-ranks every one of them he is endlessly patient. He encourages an entire hoard of cubs to simultaneously bite his ears, pull his tail, and romp all over his body, seeming to enjoy every moment. To them, he is truly a gentle giant, the fun uncle.

Not only is play adorable, it’s a safe way for the cubs to learn important motor techniques that they will use later in life while hunting or mating. It makes sense why cubs play – they’re learning these skills. Why subadult like FERG and adults play with the cubs and each other is, however, still not fully understood. Our grad student Tracy Montgomery is currently investigating whether play reduces stress, and I can’t wait to see what she finds. For more information about play, visit her website and read Lily's post about play behavior here

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science