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)


redstoneprime said...

So, Waffles now has two surviving litters: this current one, and her one from 2019 (Amoretti and Butternut)?

AFriedman said...

Are Amoretti and Butternut still alive? What do they look like now? And what did you name her newest cubs?

Also, hope you find Happy Zebra soon! I want to know who the new matriarch is.

Jana Woerner said...

As the old matriarch, Waffles was able to successfully raise quite a few litters to adulthood (some are still around, but some have died or emigrated to a new clan in the meantime). In addition to the two litters you mentioned, she also has two older subadults that were born in July 2018: ILVO (Illovo) and GRNA (Grenadine). High rankers usually have their first litter between 2-3 years old, so I’m hoping that the two of them will show up at the communal den soon with their own cubs!

Jana Woerner said...

I saw Amor a couple of times at the den when I first got back to Serena - she’s a scruffy subadult and seems to be doing well. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen Butter yet (although she may just be hiding from me for now). Her new cubs are VNCI (DaVinci) and FOXE (Fox’s U-Bet).

I hope so too! I’ve started to see some moms wandering around the territory, so hopefully one of them will lead me to the den soon. I did see EREM with some serious ear damage (half of her left ear was gone) earlier this week, so I suspect that the transition to the new matriarch wasn’t as peaceful as the Waffles to Soup transition.

redstoneprime said...

Isn't the lineage of Waffle's cubs syrups, if I remember correctly?

Jana Woerner said...

It is!

Rebecca S. said...

Thanks Jana! I'm really hoping you will post pictures of Waffles' recent litters. We have people in my online forum pretending to be Illovo, Grenadine, and Amoretti and they'll want to see pictures of "themselves" older. "Amoretti" posted on your first blog entry this year, which you wrote about coming back to the Mara.

Happy Zebra seemed to have much less peaceful leadership than North Clan, complete with infanticide, and I wonder if that's related to the possible infighting now.

(Also, I'm AFriedman)

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