Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Jambo from Kenya: Part 2!

Hi all,

I’m super excited to announce that I’m back in Serena Camp! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jana and I spent ten months in Serena with co-RAs Lila and Matthew before the pandemic hit (check out this blog post for my original introduction, and this one for Lila and I’s biggest achievement out here). During my time back in the States, I worked on a proposal for incorporating drones into biodiversity monitoring with the Nicholas Institute at Duke University and studied desert bighorn sheep in southern Nevada with the Wildlife Disease Lab at Utah State University, all while counting down the days until I could return to the Mara. After a few flight delays, countless Covid-19 tests, and a healthy dose of visa issues, my dream finally came true at the beginning of this month.

Because I’m the first RA back in Serena since last year, my main task has been finding the communal dens for all of our clans and figuring out who the new cubs belong to. North Clan, which has always been one of my top three favorite hyena clans out here, made it incredibly easy for me: they’re still denning at the same place they were at when we left back in March. And they have lots of new cubs! Most notably, former matriarch Waffles has two new little black cubs that are only ~3 weeks old. And no, she was not wearing her collar…

I also got very lucky with South Clan: my first night in the territory, I was randomly off-roading back to the main road when I came face-to-face with an older cub (KORS*, one of BSCT’s new cubs). I was so focused on getting back to the main road safely (all of our territories currently feature very, very, very tall grass and most of our previous tracks are completely overgrown/missing), that I didn’t even realize what I was looking at for a moment: South’s new communal den! This den is a lot smaller than North’s and I’ve only seen two new cubs so far (one belongs to HONR, one to DETH), so I think that there may be a second communal den somewhere else.

Happy Zebra Clan has been a little more difficult… I’ve only spent one full observation period in their territory where I made one, and unfortunately only one, discovery: most of our old tracks no longer exist. Since we confirmed former matriarch PIKE’s death back in May (the rangers found her body with substantial lion wounds and sent us pictures to ID her), Lila and I have been trying to guess who the new matriarch could be (we agree that LANC would be great, but EREM is also a strong competitor). Needless to say, I’m very excited to find their current den and piece together the new dominance hierarchy.

Stay tuned for more updates! In the meantime, here are some of my favorite pictures from my first week back in Serena:

Waffles with one of her new cubs! Lila has been helping me name all of the new cubs, and we had a hard time finding names in Waffles lineage (names of syrups) that haven't already been used since Waffles has had *so* many cubs.


PLNT is almost old enough to become den-independent - luckily she nursed from her mom (RMON) in front of me, so I was able to confirm her lineage before she is weaned (at which point, it becomes a lot harder to determine who belongs to who).
Being a first-time mom can be challenging.... GARF is still trying to figure out how to nurse her little cub. Most moms just lie on their sides for easy access, but whatever floats your boat GARF.

I'm not a big fan of hippos (who is??), but look at how small this baby is!!!

*Actual hyena names: KORS – Kokoretsi (South); BSCT – Seabiscuit (South); HONR – Honor Harrington (South); DETH – Death Star (South); PIKE – Pike (Happy Zebra); LANC – Lance (Happy Zebra); EREM – Eremet (Happy Zebra); PLNT – Animal Planet (North); RMON – Ramone (North); GARF – Garfield (North)

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science