Sunday, December 30, 2018

An insider's look on IDing hyenas: Do you see what I see?

“Now that’s a beautiful shrimp”
TOPH: With her "beautiful" shrimp.

“There's straight line!
KENY! Who appears to have a straight line of dots across his side.
Of course a huge part of our job is identifying the hyenas based on their spot patterns. When I first came out to the field, all hyenas looked exactly the same. I had no idea how I would possibly be able to identify individuals. Now, when I see hyenas, I'm amazed by not only how their spots differ, but also how even faces, colors, and shapes are unique -- and personalities of course! Though, lucky for us, its spots never change -- from birth to death a hyena's spot pattern is it's finger print...and our key to success.

Some hyenas, like Shooter, have multiple unique patterns.

Shooter has a bean on his left side! 
And a beautiful paw print on his right!

Usually we agree on what we see, but often we totally disagree. Take Toothless for example!
On Toothless, Jess (pink) uses a "squiggle language" to ID her, while I (blue) always see a smiley face. Jess doesn't even notice this "face" I see and I would have never noticed her "language".

ANA's heart (fitting with her warm personality)

A batman logo on little NIZA 

A bottle on OMHA

A question mark on QEST!

Making the dots into shapes helps me tremendously for IDing, while simultaneously making obs so much fun. On hyenas I'll often see animal patterns -- like a crab on CHOW -- or shapes -- like a house on LOBI. Every time I see a hyena I'm searching it for something weird and unique to help me remember it for the next time. With our cub boom going on now...and spots beginning to form, it's been great fun trying to find cool patterns on our new young NIZA (batman logo) above.

So....what do you see?


Unknown said...

I see a face on Shooter where you circled...two eyes and a straight line for a smile. That pawprint is perfect!! Interesting way to Id hyenas.

Sabrina said...

Love the added visuals! This was super informative, thank you for sharing. Great work!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science