Wednesday, April 7, 2021

North Cubs!

Hi all,

One of the best parts of this job is the opportunity to get to know the individual hyenas. Since we spend a lot of time at the communal dens, we get to see the different personalities of all the cubs – and after a while, we also get to know the moms, subadults, and males within each clan. There are even a couple of hyenas in each clan that we can identify based on their ~vibes~. Of course, “vibes” are not very scientific so we always confirm IDs with spot patterns, but 99.9% of the time, the lone male standing 30m away from the communal den in Happy Zebra, staring wistfully at all the cubs he could potentially befriend if females weren’t so scary is NYC, the old lady sleeping without a care in the world for the entire obs session at the North den is WAFL, and the stocky mom excitedly approaching the car in South is SAMI. Since I only have the North communal den right now, I wanted to share some of the personalities in the current cohort of cubs:

SAMI saying hi to the hyena research team (aka me) this morning!

ARIA – Bulgaria, daughter of CHOW (Clam Chowder)

ARIA’s unofficial cub name was Trouble – for a reason. Within five minutes of pulling up to the communal den on my first day back in the Mara, ARIA was already chewing on the Cruiser. The other cubs were still looking around vigilantly, ready to dive into the den hole at any moment in case of danger. She also loves the saliva stick (we collect saliva from cubs for DNA and hormone analysis) and wouldn’t let any of the other cubs near it at the beginning. However, although ARIA is the biggest and highest-ranking cub at the den, she has been behaving rather submissively over the past couple of weeks. CHOW always interferes on her behalf if one of the lower ranking cubs or mothers aggresses onto her, but when CHOW is not at the den, even little FIVE will successfully aggress onto her. Quite strange!

LIZ – Dr. Liz Wilson, daughter of GARF (Garfield)

LIZ is GARF’s first cub and she’s a little spoiled in the motherhood department. Not only is GARF at the den most of the time, but her aunt MUTT also loves to stop by to hang out with her (although MUTT can get a little pesky at times, especially when she wants to play with LIZ while LIZ is trying to nurse). Personality wise, LIZ is one of the more cautious cubs at the den – I pulled up to the den a few weeks ago, and her right ear had a big tear in it (no worries, GARF fussed over her all night to ensure that she was okay and the tear is healing nicely). Since then, she’s been sticking a little closer to the den hole and her mom than the other cubs.

JARO – Jaro, daughter of JUDE (Hey Jude)

JARO is cheeky! JUDE is honestly one of my favorite moms in North – she did a great job with RBYE and AVIV last year (two of my favorites from their cohort) and JARO is always plump. Nonetheless, JARO takes any chance she can get and will try to nurse from GARF as often as possible. Usually GARF will aggress onto her within a second or two, but sometimes she can nurse for 10+ seconds before GARF realizes that it’s her and not LIZ nursing. JARO also loves the saliva stick and is content chewing on the rope for 20-30 minutes at a time (we usually hope that cubs will chew on it for 1-2 minutes so that we get enough saliva).

LBRA – The Body in the Library, son of CLEV (Clever Girl)

LBRA is the dominant cub in CLEV’s current litter. As one of the lower ranking moms in the clan, it seems like CLEV doesn’t like to spend a lot of time at the den. The other moms will usually aggress onto her when she shows up, so she rarely does. However, this means that her cubs are struggling. Even when CLEV is at the den, she’ll stand around or sit at an awkward angle, meaning that LBRA and FIVE have to nurse while standing or wriggle their way towards CLEV’s nipples.

FIVE – Five Little Pigs, daughter of CLEV (Clever Girl)

FIVE – poor, little FIVE! I love to root for an underdog, and FIVE is definitely one of them. As the dominant cub, LBRA still manages to nurse enough to grow bigger. At this point, however, FIVE is smaller than FOXE (Waffles’ cub who is two months younger than her). It’s not uncommon for the submissive cub to be smaller than the dominant cub (ARGO and NAUT in Happy Zebra and BCKT and GOOB in North also had very considerable size differences last year) and FIVE may still make it to adulthood. She does strike me as a survivor as she has a streak of feistiness in her – I’ve seen her aggress onto ARIA quite a few times. Best of luck, little one!

Your weekly dose of the Mara:

Still lots of lion sightings!

A jackal surveying his freshly burned home.

Munch munch.

A European Roller - I think??? Lila and Matthew were the birders....

Right before a baboon chased it away!

Have I mentioned that there are a lot of lion sightings right now?

GAZR doing what males do best: awkwardly standing at the edge of the communal den.

Last night's sunset over Happy Zebra territory.

Bat-eared foxes always look either incredibly goofy or incredibly grumpy.

A rare sighting of a serval that's not completely hidden in the tall grass.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

World’s Biggest Sour Patch Kid

Hi all, 

There are many words to describe the Mara: magical, breathtaking, stunning, a photographer’s paradise… However, after living in the Mara for almost a year, I’ve started to view her as a sour patch kid: first she’s sour, then she’s sweet. For example, last year, I got our Cruiser stuck in a hole while I was alone in camp… Lila was getting much-needed supplies in Nairobi, Geemi (who usually helps us out) was at home for the week, and Lerijin (our mechanic who we call if we’re *really* stuck) was busy. Yikes! I spent the next hour digging the Cruiser out on my own. A sour morning indeed. But then the Mara dialed up her sweetness: less than 20 minutes after finally freeing the Cruiser, I came across these two cheetahs:

A solo sighting of cheetahs - before the pandemic, it was rare to see predators without a bunch of tour cars around.

Although I’m incredibly grateful to be back out here with the hyenas, last week was pretty challenging. I spent hour after hour off-roading through our South and Happy Zebra territories, navigating out of too many rock fields and nearly getting stuck in mud multiple times, with no luck. The enhanced rains, followed by lots of sunshine, followed by even more rain means that the grass is at an all-time high. Not only does the grass hide damaging rocks, buffalo wallows, swamps, den holes, etc, it also hides all of our hyenas. A good obs session meant that I had seen a single hyena that day. Very disappointing! However, the Mara finally turned her sweetness back on… a big buffalo carcass with 32 of our North hyenas, lion sightings galore, and even a hyena cub in South. So, without further ado, please enjoy these incredible sightings the Mara has given me in the past few days to make up for a bad week:

Two leopards! I've seen 4 different leopards since returning to the Mara, even though they're generally very elusive. And yes, this is the best leopard picture I have (blame the tall grass).

BORN and BANG, two of our North males, run off together with a buffalo leg. Could this be the start of a "bro-mance"?

This scavenger chased the Northies away from the buffalo carcass.

Spotted while on a game drive with Brian, the Conservancy manager. He knows that we try to keep our distance from elephants (I'd rather not get chased by an angry bull!), so he always tries to get us as close as possible to them.

MUTT showing off her perfect hyena posture. She has been spending *a lot* of time at the communal den with her older sister GARF and niece LIZ.

A sleepy scavenger.

Waffles' new cubs are starting to explore the den! Their favorite hobbies include playing on top of Waffles, sleeping on top of Waffles, sitting on top of Waffles, and walking on top of Waffles.

I stumbled upon a puddle of six lion cubs - super adorable!

Another shot from my morning with the lion cubs.

HONR and her cub, CAPE! Lila and I gave HONR her lineage last year: types of pasta.

*Actual hyena names: BORN – Borneo (North); BANG – Palembang (North); MUTT – Mutts (North); GARF – Garfield (North); LIZ – Dr. Liz Wilson (North); HONR – Honor Harrington (South); CAPE – Capellini (South)

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

An Ode to Happy Zebra

Hi all!

After unsuccessfully den hunting in Happy Zebra for the past few weeks, I’ve decided to call in for back-up. Lila, former Serena Superstar RA, was happy to oblige! Back in July 2019, the two of us set out on a mission to find the South communal den – after more than a year without their den. On July 24th, Lila posted this lovely ode about our most elusive clan at the time; and lo and behold we found their den the very next day! Since I've only seen 4 Happy Zebra hyenas so far, I knew it was time for another ode to work its magic:

My old friends, my OGs

Don’t you know how much we love thee?

You’re the first ones I met

And my first loves, you can bet


So many of you gone

And the rest nowhere to be found

The grass is so tall

And you are never around


Where are you friends?

We miss you so

PIKE* and RING are gone

But there are so many we long to know


You have new cubs

Of that I hope

That you haven’t fallen

You’re too strong

Too whole


Please come back

And give us the tea

Let us back in

We just want to see thee


Now it’s been so long

And I am sadly gone,

But the other superstar is here,

Jana’s just waiting for you to reappear!


PIKA and TRIO, a duo to reckon with

Where are you hiding?

Have you gone Timid**?

Speaking of Timid, SPCE how we miss you

You’re forever a favorite, but you knew that didn’t you


So many of you are missing

Waiting to be revived,

Please show us your ways

Uncover your deep disguise!


So HZ, the OGs,

Oh how we miss you,

Jana is waiting,

You just need to come through

-Lila Afifi, former Superstar RA, Serena’s premier wildlife photographer, poet.

*Actual hyena names: PIKE – Pike; RING – Molly Ringwald; PIKA – Pikaia; TRIO – Trilobite; SPCE – MySpace

**Timid was the cub name we originally gave SPCE – these cub names are used to refer to new individuals before we confirm nursing and can officially name them according to their mother’s lineage

Since I don’t have any interesting pictures of our Happy Zebrans at the moment, please enjoy these pictures of sleepy GARF (Garfield) truly living her best life at the North communal den the other night:

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Jambo from Kenya: Part 2!

Hi all,

I’m super excited to announce that I’m back in Serena Camp! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jana and I spent ten months in Serena with co-RAs Lila and Matthew before the pandemic hit (check out this blog post for my original introduction, and this one for Lila and I’s biggest achievement out here). During my time back in the States, I worked on a proposal for incorporating drones into biodiversity monitoring with the Nicholas Institute at Duke University and studied desert bighorn sheep in southern Nevada with the Wildlife Disease Lab at Utah State University, all while counting down the days until I could return to the Mara. After a few flight delays, countless Covid-19 tests, and a healthy dose of visa issues, my dream finally came true at the beginning of this month.

Because I’m the first RA back in Serena since last year, my main task has been finding the communal dens for all of our clans and figuring out who the new cubs belong to. North Clan, which has always been one of my top three favorite hyena clans out here, made it incredibly easy for me: they’re still denning at the same place they were at when we left back in March. And they have lots of new cubs! Most notably, former matriarch Waffles has two new little black cubs that are only ~3 weeks old. And no, she was not wearing her collar…

I also got very lucky with South Clan: my first night in the territory, I was randomly off-roading back to the main road when I came face-to-face with an older cub (KORS*, one of BSCT’s new cubs). I was so focused on getting back to the main road safely (all of our territories currently feature very, very, very tall grass and most of our previous tracks are completely overgrown/missing), that I didn’t even realize what I was looking at for a moment: South’s new communal den! This den is a lot smaller than North’s and I’ve only seen two new cubs so far (one belongs to HONR, one to DETH), so I think that there may be a second communal den somewhere else.

Happy Zebra Clan has been a little more difficult… I’ve only spent one full observation period in their territory where I made one, and unfortunately only one, discovery: most of our old tracks no longer exist. Since we confirmed former matriarch PIKE’s death back in May (the rangers found her body with substantial lion wounds and sent us pictures to ID her), Lila and I have been trying to guess who the new matriarch could be (we agree that LANC would be great, but EREM is also a strong competitor). Needless to say, I’m very excited to find their current den and piece together the new dominance hierarchy.

Stay tuned for more updates! In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pictures from my first week back in Serena:

Waffles with one of her new cubs! Lila has been helping me name all of the new cubs, and we had a hard time finding names in Waffles lineage (names of syrups) that haven't already been used since Waffles has had *so* many cubs.


PLNT is almost old enough to become den-independent - luckily she nursed from her mom (RMON) in front of me, so I was able to confirm her lineage before she is weaned (at which point, it becomes a lot harder to determine who belongs to who).
Being a first-time mom can be challenging.... GARF is still trying to figure out how to nurse her little cub. Most moms just lie on their sides for easy access, but whatever floats your boat GARF.

I'm not a big fan of hippos (who is??), but look at how small this baby is!!!

*Actual hyena names: KORS – Kokoretsi (South); BSCT – Seabiscuit (South); HONR – Honor Harrington (South); DETH – Death Star (South); PIKE – Pike (Happy Zebra); LANC – Lance (Happy Zebra); EREM – Eremet (Happy Zebra); PLNT – Animal Planet (North); RMON – Ramone (North); GARF – Garfield (North)

Thursday, March 12, 2020

An ode to Lila...

Hi all,

Contrary to the picture above, it’s a sad, sad time in Serena Camp right now… After spending ten months together, my co-RA Lila is heading back home. During our time together, Lila has taught me a lot, including what lion paw prints look like (they were actually hippo prints) and how to sex zebras (she showed me a “female” zebra that weirdly enough had a fifth leg?). Unfortunately, she did not teach me how to write poems, so please enjoy this list of 5 things I wouldn’t want to do with anybody else instead of a thoughtful ode:

1. Create a free judgment zone. Ever heard of Planet Fitness? Well, we decided to take the opposite approach. From questionable hygiene, to even more questionable fashion choices (patterns on patterns on patterns) to mumbled sentences that made absolutely no sense at 5 in the morning, we always found something to judge (in an affectionate way).

2. Get lost while accidentally off-roading in the Mara. It was a beautiful day in the Mara, so two young researchers set out in their Maruti to rediscover old tracks that were lost during the rains. “This looks like the track we’re looking for, let’s check it out!” said one of the young researchers (note: it wasn’t me). “Sounds like a great idea,” I replied. It was not a great idea. At one point, we accidentally started following an animal track that looked like it was a part of the track. Needless to say, by the time we had realized our mistake, we were already hopelessly lost in the middle of grass that was taller than the top of our Maruti. Luckily, we slowly found our way back to the track, using a clump of three bushes to orient ourselves (after frantically texting Matthew to come rescue us).

3. Eat pasta every other day. Much to my dismay, Erin, the senior RA who was in camp when I first got here, was having some stomach issues and tried to avoid pasta as much as possible. This meant that we usually had rice, beans/lentils, and vegetables for dinner during my first month. However, Lila and I went a little crazy once we were alone in camp; at our lowest point, we had pasta for dinner 4 or 5 times in one week... Since then, we had to make a conscious effort to limit our pasta intake to every other night (although Matthew swiftly got us back on track with lots of rice, beans, and veggies, much to the gratitude of my own body). 

4. Become identical replicas of each other. It all started when Lila found some scrap pieces of fabric in our lab tent and decided to get some pants made by our local Fundi (Swahili for tailor). Shortly after, I also decided to have clothes made at the Fundi, and soon Lila was buying tons of fabric for the both of us in Nairobi. Then, Lila decided that she’ll go to Ethiopia and Egypt for her vacation. Shortly after, I also decided to go there. Then, Lila decided to get a hyena-related tattoo. Shortly after, I also decided to get a hyena-related tattoo (she got an entire spotted hyena skeleton, I got four paw prints). Then… well, I think you get the gist by now… Not only can we complete each other’s sentences at this point, but we can actually say the exact same sentence at the exact same time, stopping at the exact same time half-way through to look at each other before continuing on at the exact same time. If synchronized speaking was a sport, we’d be winners.

5. Exercise the power of veto. This one ties back a little to number 1. When you’re stuck in a secluded research camp with only one other person for 10+ months, it’s important to nip annoying behavior in the bud. This means that Lila will quickly veto all of my original nicknames for the hyenas (Gin-gin is barely acceptable for GINI, but I’m no longer allowed to refer to WSKY as Whisk-whisk). Meanwhile, Lila is no longer allowed to dance awkwardly while sitting at the lab table.

Good luck with your transition back into real society, Lila. May your hair always be clean, your conversations always revolve around “normal” topics, and your wine glass always be full.

Lila when she realized that she’ll never have a coworker as cool as her current one... unless... see you in Antarctica??

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Rain Rain Go Away, We Want to Get Out Again Some Day

Back in 2016 I participated in the Behavioral Ecology of African Mammals study abroad course at Michigan State University. That was the time I knew that I had to come back to Kenya. I had to experience more than just three weeks of the beautiful scenery and lands that Kenya had to offer, specifically the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Now, as I write this, I have been in Kenya for nine months. Within the past nine months I have experienced lion-hyena interactions, hyena kills, rhino sightings, leopards mating, lions mating, hyenas mating, a clan split, the Great Migration, clan wars, many new hyena babies, and a whole lot of rain.

Below you will read about some of most vivid experiences that I will remember forever.

October 9th, 2019 – Lions and Talek West
It was a normal morning of observations, where we get up and leave at 5:30am, drive to one of our clan’s dens, and then go explore that clan’s territory. When it was time to go back to camp for breakfast, we had a surprise waiting for us. We were about to cross one of our most used crossings, “15 Years Crossing,” when all of a sudden, we heard multiple giggles and whoops coming from our Talek West Clan. We sped down “Hyena Highway” and to our amazement, we saw 5 lions (2 lionesses and 3 subadult males) pacing back and forth, and multiple members of the Talek West Clan circling these lions. This was my first lion-hyena session to transcribe and I was racing with adrenaline. The lions had an old wildebeest carcass in the bushes and the Talek West Clan were denning about 200 meters away. There were cubs at the den, and when lions are close, this can be very dangerous. Due to interspecies competition, lions will kill hyenas. An interaction was bound to happen, with lions on a carcass and being too close to the hyena den.

The interaction began with one hyena whooping to call for the others, and within seconds all the clan members came running from many directions. The hyenas began to form a coalition and mob the lions, approaching with bristle tails and giggling. By this time, our hyenas were trying to obtain the old carcass and push the lions away from the area. Two more subadult male lions came to join the fun, but they just walked around the area slowly, being careful of the hyenas. At one point in the session several hyenas mobbed at the lions and they responded by growling and roaring. When this session was all said and done, one hyena CRST* was left with the last piece of the wildebeest carcass, the spinal cord. The lions slowly walked away to go lie down and nap for the day. The rest of the Talek West Clan scattered to go back to the den to be with the cubs. This busy session only lasted for about 30 minutes and once it ended, we drove back to camp to go about our own daily routines.

When the rains started
On November 19th, 2019 the rains began. We were stuck in camp for about four weeks because the Mara landscape had too much water and mud. When it rains we do not want to be out in the field and damage the habitat with tracks from the land cruisers, and we do not want to get our cruisers stuck in the black cotton mud. The days we can’t drive into the field, we do a variety of chores in camp. We will inventory supplies, help our staff clean camp, make sure that the tents in camp are protected from rain, do accounting, and will print off updated pictures of the hyenas. We will study hyena pictures to memorize spot patterns and when we have any down time, we will color and listen to podcasts.

We were able to get back into the field again in the beginning of January. Once we drove into the field, we noticed a whole change of scenery. The rains have caused the grasses to grow to the height of the hood of our cruisers. It has been difficult to find some of the hyenas and their dens, but we were on the search. Our Pond Clan had a large baby boom while we were away and we now have 10 new cubs to keep track of. Sadly, the rains are still occurring on and off, but we attempt to get out whenever we are able to.

January 25th, 2020 was a night we were able to get out to the field, and we were not disappointed. Although it was sprinkling a bit, we were optimistic about going to the field. I was driving and Tori Hanley, my coRA, was transcribing. I was heading to Nairobi the next morning, so two Serena Ras, Matthew McBride and Lili Afifi, were along with us for obs. We were on our way back to camp when we spotted some hyena friends near a landmark called Croton Island (an area of bushes made of Croton bushes). KNOT**, LYON***, and CLEE****.

We noticed more hyenas were walk arriving from the South, with being stuck in camp for multiple weeks, we were thrilled to finally see our Talek West Clan again. All of a sudden, we see this darkly spotted hyena sprinting after a Thomson’s Gazelle. It was raining hard at this point but we had to see what was going to happen. CLEE saw this darkly spotted hyena and started to lope after it and help with the hunt. Finally, this darkly spotted hyena slowed down the Thomson’s Gazelle and was able to catch it. This hyena was CHLD*****, a subadult hyena. CLEE was right by CHLD’s side eating dinner when MDSA******, an adult female came along to join the fun. She took this kill from CHLD and CLEE, and ate it for herself. Higher ranking females will obtain the food for themselves, even if they don’t make the kill. This was an experience I will never forget. Watching CHLD run down this gazelle at full speed, was incredible. We had to head back home due to heavy rains but the Mara will always give us a treat when we are able to get out to the field.

Hopeful with good spirits
I have a few more months in the Maasai Mara, and to say that I am emotional would be an understatement. The staff, my coRAs Benson and Tori, have become my family. I am soaking in every moment I have left here, whether we are able to get out to the field or not. These past nine months have been magical, with ups, downs, and all arounds, I have fallen in love with the country of Kenya and its magic. Here is to my last few months in the Maasai Mara National Reserve!

Image may contain: grass, sky, outdoor and nature
This was taken at Lucky Leopard Den in Pond territory. This a normal occurrence at these dens, a bundle of cubs and few adults lounging around.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor
I was on solo obs back in January, when I came across this leopard sitting in a tree.  

Image may contain: sky, nature and outdoor
An elephant making his way through the Maasai Mara landscape

*CRST = Cristo Rendentor
**KNOT = Knot
****LYON = Lyon
*****CLEE = Cleveland
******CHLD = Child's pose
*******MDSA = Medusazoa

Friday, February 28, 2020

The flood scare that wasn’t a false alarm…

The flood scare that wasn’t a false alarm…

This wasn’t the first flood scare we had, but it would certainly be the one we remember.

The night before, we were woken by Stephen and Lesingo; the water from the Talek River had risen some 30 feet and was now breaking at the kitchen tent. So, in the dead of night, we packed the cars full of our most valuable things and moved everything from the kitchen to the lab tent, which sat on higher ground. We ended up with a stove and a fridge on our dining room table. But as the night went on, the river receded, I was sent back to bed, and we were in the clear…for now. 
Just as the guys had settled everything back into the kitchen so that we were able to cook food, the river rose again the next night. But this time, it didn’t just stop at the kitchen tent.

I had experienced quite a few flood false alarms since coming to Talek Camp about 3 months ago, but when Lesingo woke me that morning of January 30th at 4am, something told me that this was the moment we had been preparing for. I quickly gathered my belongings and followed Lesingo into the night to see how high the river had risen into camp. 
The kitchen tent did not have the waters breaking at its edge this time. It was completely engulfed, already about a foot deep in murky brown water, and rising still. The river made its way to the edges of the lab tent, and eventually, took that too. We had a lake instead of a driveway. The shower and the choo (Swahili for toilet) were completely underwater. We were running out of time.
In a hurry, we went through the lab tent flood protocol and loaded the Land Cruisers with the rest of the valuables that weren’t taken the night before and packed them to the ceilings with LN tanks, test tubes, ID books, GPS collars, and anything else we could fit.

Eventually the sun began to rise as we moved to higher ground and we were able to fully see for the first time how much damage the Talek River had actually caused. We waited with the cars on higher ground for nearly 6 hours, while often heading back into camp to asses the situation as the river continued to rise, and then eventually return to its banks. I made several trips back to my tent as I saw the water rising nearer and nearer each time. By the final trip, my tent no longer looked like a cozy home away from home, but rather a scene out of the Twister movie. I had stacked drawers upon desks, and bedding upon drawers, and then more rugs and clothes on top of those. I stripped my bed completely and flipped it over, stacking it even higher on top of the pile of all of my things. I don’t know whether it was the river mocking me for having turned the inside of my tent completely upside down, or simply sheer luck, but the waters never reached my tent, and for that I am grateful.
By around 9 am, just as all of our stomachs were beginning to rumble, Benson emerges from the bushes carrying a crate of soda and a Tupperware container full of leftover bread. It was breakfast for today, and we ate and drank and laughed over the fact that the guys were most upset that they hadn’t saved the chai tea from the kitchen to go with their well balanced breakfast. If you know the Masai men, you know nothing can stand between them and their chai. 
By 10 am the waters of the Talek River had finally receded. The guys had managed to drag the stove from its safe haven on the dining room table of the lab tent, to a dry and shady spot just outside of camp. Within moments we had eggs on the burners, tables and chairs set up in the grass and hot food in our bellies. From that moment on, beginning with that stove, we rebuilt camp. First a tarp to cover the stove, then batteries and lights to see in the dark, more tables for dish washing, another camping tent to store food…
It all came together before our eyes over the next few days. We made do with what we had, for we had come to realize that what we had was much more than others who had been hit by the flood, and we were feeling incredibly thankful. We had enough dry beds to sleep in, clean water to drink, good food to eat, and a warm fire to sit by. All in all, we made out from the flood pretty well. Our camp may have suffered severe damage, but we managed to save nearly everything, most importantly our high spirits. We will need those as we continue onto our 3rd week of rebuilding Talek Fisi Camp!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

An Ode to the Mara

Most stay for a weekend
But I stayed the whole year through
And there’s nothing to say but
You’re the coolest of the cool

You got me into birding
So I’m officially a grandma
But I don’t mind
They make me ooh and ahh

And thanks for putting me with Jana
She tolerates my b.s.
Even when I ask her
To drive down The Abyss

You brought me close to my hyenas
And for that I’m forever thankful
Not to mention all the sightings
Cheetahs and leopards, you’re never dull

We drive your tracks like we belong
But don’t worry, we never take you for granted
Getting stuck when we least expect
Leaving our respect for you, un-slanted

Your skies make our jaws drop
Burning suns behind wispy clouds
Teaching us to use our cameras
And making our photos the talk of the town

Each of our clans that grace your lands
Entertain us to no end
Happy Zebra, North, and South
Intertwining, and hard to count

ANUB* and ONEK* from South to North
MOMO*, GOLI*, KNG* and more
Moving back to South, ensuring
South returns to it’s former glory

With only a few weeks left
It’s a bittersweet goodbye
You’re biggest drawback
Is you don’t have tacos
But that isn’t a surprise

So thank you for the memories
The photos and the fun
My hyenas and I won’t forget
This year even when it’s done

*Full Name: ANUB (Anubis), ONEK (Onekama), MOMO (Momo), GOLI (Goliath Bird Eating Spider), KNG (King Ghidorah)

Please see below for some of my favorite wildlife photos taken this year:
Camera stare

AMOR* on top of mom, WAFL* 
AMOR* smushed against mom, WAFL*

SPCE* framed by termites

ANUB* throws a carcass

KRKN* carries a carcass

HRLY* freaks out

UNO* freaks out

NEDL* prance

SAW* rolls 
A grumpy baby TLDA*

WSKY* got a vertebra

SNUG* yawns weirdly


So many yawns


Flehmen response

Flehmen response again

Wanna go?

Don't fall off mom!

Ohhhh man


Snack time
More flehmen response!
Full Names: AMOR (Amoretti), WAFL (Waffles), SPCE (Myspace), ANUB (Anubis), KRKN (The Kraken), HRLY (Harlequin), UNO (Uno), NEDL (Needle), SAW (Sawtooth), TLDA (Matilda), WSKY (Whiskey Sour), SNUG (Silver Nugget)

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science