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)


Unknown said...

Love it! Great news about finding the dens so far! Stay safe ❤️

redstoneprime said...

Nice to see a new post here. Also, what relation do Eremet and Lance have to Pike?

Unknown said...

So nice to have information and photos coming in again!

Jana Woerner said...

They’re both her daughters!

Rebecca S. said...

Hi Jana! Thanks so much for your post. So wonderful to see the blog again, to see Serena Camp research happening, and to know that Waffles is all right and has new cubs. Curious who Happy Zebra's new matriarch is. I'm glad it is NOT Claymore, and what are Lance and Eremet like? Or imagine if it's Erin Person's favorite, Grace O'Malley Happy Zebra. I'm a fan of OMLY too. That would break all the rules but OMLY already has.

By the way, the hyena fandom reaches unexpected places. On the question-answering website, I'm actually "Waffles North." I maintain a forum focused on cross-factional collaboration on Israel-Palestine, partly inspired by how the real Waffles worked with clan-mates of many different lineages and ranks in the Syrup Rebellion. Other people who are involved are nicknamed Amoretti, Teddy Bear, Grenadine, LCS, Log Cabin, Leprechaun, Eleanor, and other hyenas associated with the Syrups, mostly based on this blog. Our forum has over a million views and is's first space to be awarded external grant funding. Now, we're on the verge of getting a nonprofit affiliation, another milestone for a Quora space. You might get comments on here from other "Syrups." The way hyenas cuddle with their cousins, clean up things other animals leave behind, and fight lions (a symbol of martial power for both sides of Israel-Palestine) ends up being a great analogy for the de-incitement of this international conflict.

If you're up for it, I'd be delighted to chat with you and tell you more. I'm actually Duke MS Biology '08, too.

Unknown said...

Hello Jana! Thanks a lot for this post. You're exposing a Kenyan here to the other side of hyenas that he'd otherwise not have been acquainted with. I'm in Nairobi, a Kenyan born and bred in the land. I was introduced to your blog by Rebecca with whom I'm currently interning at Unity is Strength on as we work towards peace initiatives in the Holy Land. Rebecca has drawn very interesting analogies from Waffles which offer a very radical shift from the traditional perspectives that folks in conflict often have of one another. I am glad to have had the pleasure of drinking from the same fountain that she draws her inspiration. Thanks a lot for the updates again.

RobinsCheetah said...

Love these updates, thank you so much for bringing hyena society updates and great research to all of us!

Unknown said...

Hi Jana, I am a Canadian teen-ager who became interested in hyenas and their rivalry with lions through an information website, after one of the writers on both Middle East/North Africa and animal topics (Rebecca Sealfon) taught me about them. Her nickname there is "Waffles" and she nicknamed me "Amoretti" after Waffles' cub ❤️ ❤️ ❤️, a hyena you would actually know! I'm also interested in chemistry and in working to clean up the mess in Syria. On Israel-Palestine, another very contentious Middle Eastern conflict, one metaphor we use is to encourage hyena CLEANUP and discourage lion AGGRESSION! Just want to let you know how much we love the Serena hyenas.

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