Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Who be that?!

One of my favorite parts of my job, silly as it seems, is naming hyenas. We have a fancy naming scheme to help us keep track of which hyenas are related. As soon as a hyena has her first litter of cubs we assign her a 'lineage' theme. These cubs and all the cubs she has after are given names that relate to this theme. For example, Murphy's (the alpha female of the Talek West clan) lineage is "Greek gods and goddesses" so her cubs have been named Helios, Adonis, Artemis, Morpheus, and Dionysus, just to name a few.

Immigrant males require a different system because the vast majority of the time we do not know their mothers. All immigrant males are named after cities and towns.

I get irrationally excited about naming cubs and thinking up new lineages. The hyenas can't mature fast enough for me to run out of lineage ideas that I want to use and the adult females can't pop out enough cubs for me to run out of name ideas for the lineages I really enjoy. Plus, when conversation gets slow around camp and we're looking for entertainment, cub names and lineages are inexhaustible discussion topics.

I'm also very proud of the hyenas I have had the honor of naming so far. My favorite hyena has turned out to be Gambit, a hyena I named in the Fig Tree clan. He/she (we're not sure what sex it is yet) was the first cub born to Potter so I was able to start the X-men lineage off with him. Not only was Gambit born on the day of my arrival in Kenya, but he/she has also turned out to be a pretty spunky little cub. Gambit is always "play romping" and "play biting" with the other bigger cubs at the den and even has the gall to be pesky to Carol Doda, one of our most grumpy hyenas.

Other successful naming endeavors include Wozzeck, The Cunning Little Vixen (both from the operas lineage), Aero, Krackle (chocolate bars lineage, Levi's, Wrangler (brands of jeans lineage), Cherry Garcia, Karamel Sutra (Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Flavors lineage), and Rough and Ready (immigrant male lineage; and yes, this really is the name of a town in California. It's a great place, look it up).


Dan said...

Those are some great names. You had better use Joust for one of Atari's kids!

Kate said...

Sorry Dan, there's already a Joust :)

Anonymous said...

Other great Atari game names for use could be Adventure, Breakout and Sneek and Peek (the Atari version of Hide and Seek).

Anonymous said...

I had a similar dilemma in naming my bachelor geladas (as you do with your immigrant males) since the matrilines all get named with the same first letter. I ended up going with groups based on the novel Moby Dick (quite a read for the field), 1980s hair metal bands (if you've seen a male gelada then you get the reference), and 19th century naturalists (no Darwin since that would be too obvious).

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science