Thursday, February 28, 2019

The End of a Year

Well everyone, the end of my year has come. It's been such an amazing time at the Mara Hyena Project, and the Maasai Mara has been a beautiful place to work this year.

It's going to be so strange to go home, as I've heard from every other research assistant who has left the field. I'll have to learn to drive on the right side of the road again! And it'll certainly be odd to not have bats and birds chattering and squawking outside my tent all night. I've heard many times that people have difficulty adjusting to life at home after being in the field all year, so I'll have to find out for myself what I struggle with. What I'm really not looking forward to is Michigan in March, I haven't felt a temperature below 50 degrees Fahrenheit all year!

As far as the best parts of the year go, it was definitely the people. Everyone in camp was just wonderful to work and live with. You absolutely become a family when you are out here, and I've made friendships that will last a lifetime. It was very tough to leave them, but it just means I'll have to come back though!

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of my favorite pictures from this year. I hope you enjoy them, and asante sana!
Beautiful sunset over Young Simba Tree
Little UANO atop his weary mother
Lion and lioness shortly after mating
NANO being her best self 
A very relaxed leopard chilling in the grass

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!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science