Wednesday, March 24, 2021

World’s Biggest Sour Patch Kid

Hi all, 

There are many words to describe the Mara: magical, breathtaking, stunning, a photographer’s paradise… However, after living in the Mara for almost a year, I’ve started to view her as a sour patch kid: first she’s sour, then she’s sweet. For example, last year, I got our Cruiser stuck in a hole while I was alone in camp… Lila was getting much-needed supplies in Nairobi, Geemi (who usually helps us out) was at home for the week, and Lerijin (our mechanic who we call if we’re *really* stuck) was busy. Yikes! I spent the next hour digging the Cruiser out on my own. A sour morning indeed. But then the Mara dialed up her sweetness: less than 20 minutes after finally freeing the Cruiser, I came across these two cheetahs:

A solo sighting of cheetahs - before the pandemic, it was rare to see predators without a bunch of tour cars around.

Although I’m incredibly grateful to be back out here with the hyenas, last week was pretty challenging. I spent hour after hour off-roading through our South and Happy Zebra territories, navigating out of too many rock fields and nearly getting stuck in mud multiple times, with no luck. The enhanced rains, followed by lots of sunshine, followed by even more rain means that the grass is at an all-time high. Not only does the grass hide damaging rocks, buffalo wallows, swamps, den holes, etc, it also hides all of our hyenas. A good obs session meant that I had seen a single hyena that day. Very disappointing! However, the Mara finally turned her sweetness back on… a big buffalo carcass with 32 of our North hyenas, lion sightings galore, and even a hyena cub in South. So, without further ado, please enjoy these incredible sightings the Mara has given me in the past few days to make up for a bad week:

Two leopards! I've seen 4 different leopards since returning to the Mara, even though they're generally very elusive. And yes, this is the best leopard picture I have (blame the tall grass).

BORN and BANG, two of our North males, run off together with a buffalo leg. Could this be the start of a "bro-mance"?

This scavenger chased the Northies away from the buffalo carcass.

Spotted while on a game drive with Brian, the Conservancy manager. He knows that we try to keep our distance from elephants (I'd rather not get chased by an angry bull!), so he always tries to get us as close as possible to them.

MUTT showing off her perfect hyena posture. She has been spending *a lot* of time at the communal den with her older sister GARF and niece LIZ.

A sleepy scavenger.

Waffles' new cubs are starting to explore the den! Their favorite hobbies include playing on top of Waffles, sleeping on top of Waffles, sitting on top of Waffles, and walking on top of Waffles.

I stumbled upon a puddle of six lion cubs - super adorable!

Another shot from my morning with the lion cubs.

HONR and her cub, CAPE! Lila and I gave HONR her lineage last year: types of pasta.

*Actual hyena names: BORN – Borneo (North); BANG – Palembang (North); MUTT – Mutts (North); GARF – Garfield (North); LIZ – Dr. Liz Wilson (North); HONR – Honor Harrington (South); CAPE – Capellini (South)

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

An Ode to Happy Zebra

Hi all!

After unsuccessfully den hunting in Happy Zebra for the past few weeks, I’ve decided to call in for back-up. Lila, former Serena Superstar RA, was happy to oblige! Back in July 2019, the two of us set out on a mission to find the South communal den – after more than a year without their den. On July 24th, Lila posted this lovely ode about our most elusive clan at the time; and lo and behold we found their den the very next day! Since I've only seen 4 Happy Zebra hyenas so far, I knew it was time for another ode to work its magic:

My old friends, my OGs

Don’t you know how much we love thee?

You’re the first ones I met

And my first loves, you can bet


So many of you gone

And the rest nowhere to be found

The grass is so tall

And you are never around


Where are you friends?

We miss you so

PIKE* and RING are gone

But there are so many we long to know


You have new cubs

Of that I hope

That you haven’t fallen

You’re too strong

Too whole


Please come back

And give us the tea

Let us back in

We just want to see thee


Now it’s been so long

And I am sadly gone,

But the other superstar is here,

Jana’s just waiting for you to reappear!


PIKA and TRIO, a duo to reckon with

Where are you hiding?

Have you gone Timid**?

Speaking of Timid, SPCE how we miss you

You’re forever a favorite, but you knew that didn’t you


So many of you are missing

Waiting to be revived,

Please show us your ways

Uncover your deep disguise!


So HZ, the OGs,

Oh how we miss you,

Jana is waiting,

You just need to come through

-Lila Afifi, former Superstar RA, Serena’s premier wildlife photographer, poet.

*Actual hyena names: PIKE – Pike; RING – Molly Ringwald; PIKA – Pikaia; TRIO – Trilobite; SPCE – MySpace

**Timid was the cub name we originally gave SPCE – these cub names are used to refer to new individuals before we confirm nursing and can officially name them according to their mother’s lineage

Since I don’t have any interesting pictures of our Happy Zebrans at the moment, please enjoy these pictures of sleepy GARF (Garfield) truly living her best life at the North communal den the other night:

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