Wednesday, April 7, 2021

North Cubs!

Hi all,

One of the best parts of this job is the opportunity to get to know the individual hyenas. Since we spend a lot of time at the communal dens, we get to see the different personalities of all the cubs – and after a while, we also get to know the moms, subadults, and males within each clan. There are even a couple of hyenas in each clan that we can identify based on their ~vibes~. Of course, “vibes” are not very scientific so we always confirm IDs with spot patterns, but 99.9% of the time, the lone male standing 30m away from the communal den in Happy Zebra, staring wistfully at all the cubs he could potentially befriend if females weren’t so scary is NYC, the old lady sleeping without a care in the world for the entire obs session at the North den is WAFL, and the stocky mom excitedly approaching the car in South is SAMI. Since I only have the North communal den right now, I wanted to share some of the personalities in the current cohort of cubs:


SAMI saying hi to the hyena research team (aka me) this morning!

ARIA – Bulgaria, daughter of CHOW (Clam Chowder)

ARIA’s unofficial cub name was Trouble – for a reason. Within five minutes of pulling up to the communal den on my first day back in the Mara, ARIA was already chewing on the Cruiser. The other cubs were still looking around vigilantly, ready to dive into the den hole at any moment in case of danger. She also loves the saliva stick (we collect saliva from cubs for DNA and hormone analysis) and wouldn’t let any of the other cubs near it at the beginning. However, although ARIA is the biggest and highest-ranking cub at the den, she has been behaving rather submissively over the past couple of weeks. CHOW always interferes on her behalf if one of the lower ranking cubs or mothers aggresses onto her, but when CHOW is not at the den, even little FIVE will successfully aggress onto her. Quite strange!

LIZ – Dr. Liz Wilson, daughter of GARF (Garfield)

LIZ is GARF’s first cub and she’s a little spoiled in the motherhood department. Not only is GARF at the den most of the time, but her aunt MUTT also loves to stop by to hang out with her (although MUTT can get a little pesky at times, especially when she wants to play with LIZ while LIZ is trying to nurse). Personality wise, LIZ is one of the more cautious cubs at the den – I pulled up to the den a few weeks ago, and her right ear had a big tear in it (no worries, GARF fussed over her all night to ensure that she was okay and the tear is healing nicely). Since then, she’s been sticking a little closer to the den hole and her mom than the other cubs.

JARO – Jaro, daughter of JUDE (Hey Jude)

JARO is cheeky! JUDE is honestly one of my favorite moms in North – she did a great job with RBYE and AVIV last year (two of my favorites from their cohort) and JARO is always plump. Nonetheless, JARO takes any chance she can get and will try to nurse from GARF as often as possible. Usually GARF will aggress onto her within a second or two, but sometimes she can nurse for 10+ seconds before GARF realizes that it’s her and not LIZ nursing. JARO also loves the saliva stick and is content chewing on the rope for 20-30 minutes at a time (we usually hope that cubs will chew on it for 1-2 minutes so that we get enough saliva).

LBRA – The Body in the Library, son of CLEV (Clever Girl)

LBRA is the dominant cub in CLEV’s current litter. As one of the lower ranking moms in the clan, it seems like CLEV doesn’t like to spend a lot of time at the den. The other moms will usually aggress onto her when she shows up, so she rarely does. However, this means that her cubs are struggling. Even when CLEV is at the den, she’ll stand around or sit at an awkward angle, meaning that LBRA and FIVE have to nurse while standing or wriggle their way towards CLEV’s nipples.

FIVE – Five Little Pigs, daughter of CLEV (Clever Girl)

FIVE – poor, little FIVE! I love to root for an underdog, and FIVE is definitely one of them. As the dominant cub, LBRA still manages to nurse enough to grow bigger. At this point, however, FIVE is smaller than FOXE (Waffles’ cub who is two months younger than her). It’s not uncommon for the submissive cub to be smaller than the dominant cub (ARGO and NAUT in Happy Zebra and BCKT and GOOB in North also had very considerable size differences last year) and FIVE may still make it to adulthood. She does strike me as a survivor as she has a streak of feistiness in her – I’ve seen her aggress onto ARIA quite a few times. Best of luck, little one!

Your weekly dose of the Mara:

Still lots of lion sightings!

A jackal surveying his freshly burned home.

Munch munch.

A European Roller - I think??? Lila and Matthew were the birders....

Right before a baboon chased it away!

Have I mentioned that there are a lot of lion sightings right now?

GAZR doing what males do best: awkwardly standing at the edge of the communal den.

Last night's sunset over Happy Zebra territory.

Bat-eared foxes always look either incredibly goofy or incredibly grumpy.

A rare sighting of a serval that's not completely hidden in the tall grass.



Michigan State University | College of Natural Science