Friday, November 9, 2018

Teamwork makes the dream work

And so it was that on the 7th of November, Jessica Gunson - bright-eyed and bushy-tailed research assistant - set out for solo obs and stumbled upon a carcass session, turned high speed chase, turned lion-hyena interaction, turned SECOND carcass session.

At 6am, as I paused to take a sip of my coffee, I began to hear loud whooping and growling coming from down the road, in Happy Zebra territory. I stowed my travel mug and took off to investigate, heading off road and directly into a carcass session. It appears a low-ranking immigrant male had killed a wildebeest over night, and there were now 12 hyenas vigilantly standing by as subadult KNG feasted. Because this was solo obs, I quickly jumped into action. I pulled out our audio equipment (pictured below) to begin recording vocalizations for one of our graduate students. I simultaneously whipped out my camera to film behaviors, and grabbed my hyena ID book to start confirming the identity of the hyenas present.

Former RA Emily Nonnamaker captures hyena vocalizations at a carcass session
Suddenly, a whoop rang out from the east. We all (myself and 18 hyenas) paused and looked in this direction and then… they took off! At breakneck speed, 17 of the 18 hyenas present loped to the east as I frantically attempted to follow. We had travelled for over 2km when I spotted it – 5 female lions feeding on a wildebeest. There were already several Happy Zebra hyenas here, nervously pacing as they awaited reinforcement. What happened next cannot be adequately described in words, so I’ve included a video instead-

It takes 4 hyenas to overpower 1 female lion, so with the arrival of these 17 hyenas (and I), the group was victorious and took the wildebeest. I sat in silence. Awed at the cooperation and bravery of my dear Happy Zebra hyenas. When it comes to hyenas – teamwork makes the dream work.

Bonus: The one hyena who stayed behind at carcass #1 was SKEP. She may not have the team spirit, but she sure is smart. 

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science