Wednesday, February 6, 2019

New RA in Talek camp!

Hello everyone! My name is Marie and I’m a new RA in Talek camp. I’m 23, I’m French and like everybody else here, I love hyenas.

My interest for hyenas started when I volunteered for 3 months with the Brown Hyena Research Project in Namibia, in 2017. During this time, my field work consisted of servicing and downloading photos from camera traps. I would then analyze them in the office. Brown hyenas are very interesting animals. In Namibia they live on the coast and in a desert and dry environment, and they mainly feed on seal pups. I really enjoyed my time there and to have the opportunity to see them, understand how they live and also to be part of the darting team when they were fitted with GPS collars.


I enjoyed Namibia so much that I decided to go back there in 2018 during 6 months to do my MSc thesis on a small spotted hyena clan adapted to this desert environment, in the Namib Naukluft National Park. Because of the drought in the area, a conflict emerged between the hyenas and a population of feral horses, and hyenas were diversionary fed by people with the aim to reduce the predation pressure on the horses. The objective of my study was to determine the impacts of this diversionary feeding on the spotted hyena population and movements. To get data, I also mainly worked with camera traps as these spotted hyenas were only nocturnal and very elusive.

Being here in the Mara now is so different from my last experience in Namibia. First, the climate is very different as it rains a lot and everything is green. Also, I am amazed by the number of both herbivores and carnivores in the Park. In just a week I saw lions, leopards, cheetahs (even baby cheetahs!), serval and hyenas of course. I even had the opportunity to see a lion-hyena interaction and a hyena taking down a young topi. There is so much to see and we never know what we are going to observe when we go on obs.

Life at camp is also great, the tents are comfortable, we have great food and a hot shower. I love it here and I’m so excited for this year!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Vervet Friends

There’s too much primate hate in Fisi camp. It’s true. Nearly every research assistant and member of the camp staff has a vendetta against primates. And yes, primates can be notorious pests. They routinely knock over our trash cans looking for free scraps, sending trash in every direction, and can wreak havoc on kitchen and food storage tents if left unattended. But most of these annoying acts are carried out by the local olive baboon troop. We think it’s due to their constant interaction with humans, but the Talek camp baboon troop is ridiculously bold and persistent and will not stop at anything until they get their hands on our Nairobi trash. So maybe there, a little bit of resentment is reserved. However, this resentment almost always spills over and ends up unrightfully (in my opinion) including the more even-tempered, curious, and frankly – cuter, distant relative of the baboon; the vervet monkey.

Female members of Talek camp's local baboon troop (top 2). Our lab tent trash can after Jasiri, one of the large males in the Talek camp troop, had managed to get his hands on it (bottom photo).  


 Talek camp is frequented regularly by vervets. They announce their arrival by racing across the top of the lab tent then curiously peering upside down over the edge of it at us as we work. After a clumsy tight-rope walk across the line that ties the tent to the nearest tree, the vervets are more than content to sit and watch us work for what can end up being hours. Sometimes the troop will split, and you can find some of them causing trouble at the kitchen tent by playing with plates and silverware or inspecting the trash for any fresh fruit scraps. But, unlike the baboons, vervet monkeys listen to you – most of the time – and after one well delivered lecture, will leave the plates and silverware alone.






While the baboons are omnipresent, the vervets come and go, sometimes leaving camp for months at a time before returning. Which to me, makes their reappearances so special. It’s always nice to wander through camp and see their tails drifting through the tree tops or to turn the corner and see a baby learning the ways of the world as he explores away from the safety of mother for the first time. For many people, their favorite think about camp life is being truly immersed in nature 24/7. And while it took me nearly 8 months to figure out what my favorite thing about this experience was, I think I have to agree with everyone else. Being totally immersed in nature, and living in a place where you can wake up, look through your tent window, and see a troop of vervet monkeys walk single file past you in the early morning light is truly wonderful.  




Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Triumphant Return Or Not...


Hi Folks!

I’m Maggie, and I am back in the Mara! I am one of Dr. Kay Holekamp's many grad students. I was in the Mara last year from March through August. That year was one of the rainiest years in quite a while. The rains started in late February and went through March, April, May and into June. Usually the rains go from mid-March to late May.

I arrived in the Mara on Sunday. The Mara was bone dry. It had not rained in weeks. And guess what?!?! Last night we got a whopping 30ml, and then this afternoon we got nearly 40ml!!! We are now stuck in camp. Fingers crossed that this rain stops, and we can get out to see our hyenas!



As I am posting this, it is back to raining... We are probably past 50ml for the night... At least, we have time to catch up sleep and chores around camp!

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