Thursday, April 19, 2018

Flood flood, go away

    As I mentioned before, it’s rainy season in the Mara! Unfortunately this also means that it’s flooding season. We at Talek Fisi Camp live right next to the Talek river, and if we get a large amount of rain we have to be prepared to evacuate camp. What does this entail? So glad you asked!

    We have had to prep for a possible flood evacuation twice since I’ve been here, so I’m pretty familiar with the process now. The first thing we do is pack up the lab tent, putting all our sensitive equipment into dry bags. Dry bags seal up the contents and protect them from any water damage. The bags could actually be completed submerged without any water getting in, but of course you won’t catch us tossing them into the river to test it! Things that go into dry bags include computers, hard drives, GPSs, our centrifuge, our hyena ID books, and few other important electronics and documents. Everything else we put up on tables to minimize the chance that they’ll get wet. The dry bags go into the cars in the event that we need to drive out of camp to seek higher ground. After everything in the lab tent has been taken care of, we’ll often rush to pack a bag for ourselves in case our tents get in the path of the flood. As you might expect, we take all of our electronics and any special things we want to save, but generally it’s no big deal if some of our clothes get wet.
The river normally
The river during a flood watch
    While we pack up the lab tent, the camp staff is securing the kitchen tent, bringing non-waterproof things to the higher ground of the lab tent and packing the car with perishables. After everything is packed and ready to go, we sit and wait to see if the river will push us out of camp. Thankfully both times I’ve been involved in flood prep, the river has receded and we haven’t had to leave camp. In the event we do need to fully evacuate, we would simply drive the cars out of camp and up a hill to higher ground. At that point there would be nothing to do but sit tight until the river calms down and goes back to its normal level. Flooding is new experience for me, but the fact that we always have a plan in the event of an emergency makes it easy to deal with. I do wish it would stop raining though, I miss seeing the hyenas!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Pond Clan Missing!

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program with this urgent news bulletin: Pond clan has gone missing!

It’s been nearly a month now since Pond clan has gone underground, and authorities are still unable to track down any leads to their new den of residence or where the adults and subadults have been living. Ever since December, sightings of the clan had become less and less frequent until by late February they were almost exclusively found just at the communal den.

Sadly, this tenuous connection was lost when the clan up and vanished without a trace from the den in early March. The police investigation found no sign of forced entry at the den, and all local lion prides were verified to have been sleeping at the time. In an exclusive interview, the neighboring warthog family states that they had heard nothing but the usual giggling and whooping.

Theories abound as to why and where the clan has disappeared, but our experts believe that shifting territorial boundaries and the explosion of tall grass caused it.

The shifting of boundaries started in November the neighboring Fig Tree clan pushed nearly a kilometer into Pond territory. This loss possibly precipitating the hostile take over that Pond clan engaged in against KCM clan, taking nearly a square kilometer of KCM territory. And these are just the territory shifts that we knew of before the long grass grew.

Pond clan territory on January 9th
Pond clan territory April 7th
Before February, the grass in pond likely measured about 10cm high, however after heavy rains in late January the grass rocketed up to nearly a meter tall. The grass is now so thick it could hide the entire clan together without a trace. The tall grass has also caused the ungulates to leave the area, “Tall grass isn’t very palatable for us and many other ungulates,” says Ms. Thompson Gazelle, and ex-resident of Pond territory, “not to mention dangerous, with predators possibly lurking everywhere.”

In these desperate times we ask you, the public, in helping us in the search, if anyone has information please call your local hyena research camp at the toll free number of 1(800)-698-POND.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science