Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It's always nice to see a familiar face

As a RA, one of the biggest parts of the job is learning (and eventually memorizing) the left and right spot patterns of every hyena in our study clans. For Talek, that’s approximately 250 individuals, or 500 spot patterns. While our hyenas are often good models and are more than willing to strike a pose and show us their beautiful spots, sometimes they like to throw curveballs our way. They can be covered in mud from shoulder to butt, lying in the comfiest ditch known to Crocuta-kind, or just be feeling stubborn and refuse to get up when we approach them. When situations like this arise it’s helpful to have a few other tricks up your sleeve to help you figure out who you’re looking at. Luckily, many of our hyenas have distinct faces, facial features, and ear damage to help us out! Here are a couple of the individuals we can recognize just by looking at their faces; and then of course confirm with our handy-dandy spot binders.

Bug is one of our older cubs at our Talek West den. When he was younger something happened to his left eye and damaged his tapetum lucidum. As a result he has no eye-shine from his left eye. Whether or not this impedes his vision we don’t know, but whenever we pull up and see a face with only one eye shining back at us we can always be sure it’s Bug!

Pitumurca (a.k.a. Mouse)
Pitumurca was the first hyena I was able to recognize by their face. Before we knew who his mother was we called him Mouse because his ears reminded us of little mouse ears when they poked out of the den. After we figured out that his mother was Helios, it became very clear that he inherited his mother's ears. In addition to his mouse ears, Pitumurca also has unique facial patterning. The black on his face only surrounds his nose whereas the black on the faces of the other Talek West cubs extends up to their lower eyelids (see Bug's photo for an example).


Taurus is an adult male of our KCM clan, whom I lovingly call “my little elephant seal”. In addition to having a lovely “M” pattern on his left shoulder, Taurus has a face that resembles that of the largest pinnipeds, making him easy to ID in situations like this where he’s obscured by tall grass.  


Satyr is one of our lovely KCM adult ladies with a face that could melt the hearts of the even the most adamant hyena haters. Her distinctive mohawk, almond shaped eyes, and reddish  fur make her one of the easier KCMers to ID in addition to her distinctive ear damage and arch of spots on her left shoulder.


Nassau is an immigrant male in our KCM clan whose spots are remarkably faded. Having faded spots and living in an area with tall grass makes him really difficult to ID. Luckily for us, Nassau has a distinctive droop in his lower right lip that exposes part of his gum-line. While we’re not sure exactly how or why his lip is droopy, we do know that it makes him easy to ID!


Baloo just might be the derpiest hyena Fisi Camp has ever known. With crooked ears too large for their head Baloo stands out among her Pond counterparts, making her easy to ID in the endless sea of grass that is her home range.


Parcheesi is the winner of most unique ear damage for the Talek hyenas. While acquired in a not-so-beautiful fashion, we believe her ear damage makes her stunning and unique and is immensely helpful for identifying her when she's hiding in tall grass. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

We enjoyed the tutorial. It is amazing how different they can be.

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