Monday, December 29, 2014

Serena Camp Wageni

Having camp wageni (swahili for "guests") is always a fun change of pace for Fisi Camp. My family visited me in camp for Christmas, and showing new people the Mara and all of our hyenas reminds me how exciting it is that I get to live here for a year. 

Lately, however, camp has had a lot of uninvited guests, some more destructive than others. 

I'll start with the welcome guests. We were lucky enough to see this cheetah kill and eat a baby impala in our driveway not too long ago.

Willamina, an adult female warthog, has been hanging out in camp a lot.

Willamina taking a nap underneath the kitchen tent tarp

Not all guests make for fun animal sightings though. Quite a few animal visitors have been disrupting camp and work lately. Faithful blog followers might remember the baby buffalo that wandered into camp last month. Well, the night after Heidi posted that blog, that baby buffalo was killed and eaten by our North hyenas about 100 meters from camp. Heidi heard the kill at around 11pm and the carnage continued to about 6:30am the next day, keeping us in our tents and unable to go out on obs.

The kitchen tent has gotten a beating lately as well. A leopard climbed a tree right next to the tent, and then jumped down on top of the tent, breaking the pole that holds up the tarp and roof and collapsing the whole tent. Just after Philomen and Jorgi managed to repair that, hyenas ripped a hole in the side of the kitchen tent and ate all of our fresh, homemade bread. Philomen believes that Waffles, our North matriarch is teaching her 1 year old cubs, Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Buttersworth, how to raid camp for food and water now that the migration is over and the gnu have moved out. 

Leopard claw marks on the tree next to the kitchen tent

A baboon troupe has also been making trouble for Serena camp. One large male baboon in particular has gotten quite good at sneaking into the kitchen and lab tents. He managed to steal a tomato and an onion a few days ago, along with a fancy bar of chocolate.

The baboon, scoping out the kitchen tent
One of the coolest camp visitors, at least from the perspective of a fisi researcher, happened on a morning after a big rain, when we were staying in from obs. I was woken by loud hyena screams at around 7:00. I immediately thought of the time lions, hyenas, and hippos rampaged through Serena camp, flattening several tents and keeping the RAs under their beds to escape the destruction. These hyenas didn't do nearly as much damage to camp, but they did run between all the tents, waking all of us up. There were three hyenas chasing each other through camp. One was very aggressively chasing and biting a hyena that was squealing, continually submissing, and trying to run away. Despite the fact that the hyena was acting completely submissive, the aggressor did not let up and by the time they ran out of camp the submissive one had a large neck wound and was bleeding quite heavily. Ypsilanti, an adult male, was frantically running circles around them the whole time, but didn't join in the aggressions. Unfortunately, I was too surprised and asleep to ID the other hyenas, but it was the most aggressive behavior I have seen in hyenas in my six months in the Mara. Luckily, Chris Dutton, from the Yale Mara water project (you can read more about the project here!), who lives right next to us, managed to catch some of the noise and fighting on video. While it is too far away to ID the hyenas involved you can see some wrestling and running around, as well as hear how distressed the submissing hyena is.

Blood spatter left behind by the attacked hyena


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I know you guys must be having a tough time when things break and your food gets stolen/repurposed but I find it hilarious that Waffles is teaching her cubs to raid you. I think I like her more and more with every post.

Lily J-U said...

That big female warthog was around when I was in camp! We called her Mama Hog. She also had an almost fully grown daughter we called Wilbur. She brought her tiny babies into camp last year which was super adorable... hopefully she treats you guys with that this year!

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