Sunday, November 10, 2013

Waffles and her cave

Waffles, the matriarch of our Serena North Clan, has recently found what seems to be the deepest hole in the territory to make her natal den (we think, we haven't actually seen the cubs yet). We would have never found her if it wasn't for her collar, thank you GPS points!

Hopefully, she will emerge soon with Mrs. Butterworth or Aunt Jemima (or both)!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hyena Pillows

Over half the time, when we find a hyena, she's asleep. Now, hyenas don't just sleep anywhere- it turns out hyenas are very particular about finding a good pillow. However, pillows can be just about anything.

Termite mounds are a favorite pillow. Then gentle dirt slope of a mound makes a very good resting spot.

If no termite mound is available, sometimes a hole or depression can do the same trick.

Even mud is okay, especially on a hot day.

If there aren't any dirt pillows around grass can be a comfy pillow too.

Fellow cubs make excellent pillows if none of the other options are available.

If a hyena is all alone, their paws can be used for a pillow.

Rocks are a very commonly used pillow.

For more creative hyenas even a carcass can make a good pillow!

Or buffalo poop!

Of course, sometimes a hyena is so tired they just fall flat asleep in the middle of the road with no pillow at all.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Solar Eclipse

Two days ago we got see a rare solar eclipse- visible from most of Kenya. The sun here is extremely bright and it was impossible to see anything with naked eye but I did manage to get some good photos of the eclipse. Some thin clouds started passing in front of the sun part-way through the eclipse which actually helped darken the sun enough to be able to see the moon taking a slice out of it, but later on the clouds completely obscured the sun and we were unable to see the total eclipse. Watching the lighting change across the landscape was fascinating as the sun's light became dimmer. 

The sun still too bright to see the thin sliver that the moon was taking out of it.

Me trying to get a good photo! (Credit to Emily Thomas)

 Halfway obscured!

Almost all the way covered, but the clouds were getting darker.

This is the view we had from our "front yard". Sun covered up by clouds at this point.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pan's ghost

Just in time for Halloween, we had a ghost in camp. Benson and I were working in the lab tent when I got a text from Emily, who’d been looking at gps points from our collared animals. She asked us whether we’d seen Pan around, since her collar was active again and had been sending in points from around the territory, though she added that there were a lot of points in camp. At first, I was really puzzled, since Pan was a hyena that died a few months before I arrived. They found her body and collected her collar and skull, but she was too far gone to determine what killed her. So now we were receiving gps points from a dead hyena all over the territory.

For a brief moment, I wondered if there was any way Pan could still be alive. After all, we’d seen some hyenas in our other two clans that had been on the missing list, most recently Muhammad Ali, who hadn’t been seen in over two and a half years. However, I’d held Pan’s skull, which seemed pretty definitive.

It was Benson who solved the mystery: We had a new collar in the darting box with the same frequency as Pan’s, and the magnet (which we use to stop collars sending out points until we deploy them) had come off. So every day when we went out with the darting supplies, the collar sent out another point from somewhere in the territory, but most of the time it was in camp. It also explained why we’d had inexplicably large amounts of interference on the tracking some mornings.

Then, last night we saw Pan’s grand-cubs and I couldn’t help but think of how much impact a single hyena can have in the future of the clan, depending on how many of their offspring survive. Maybe that’s all that Pan’s ghost was trying to tell us.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science