Thursday, June 30, 2022

Jambo from Kenya: Part 3

Hi all, I’m backkkk!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jana (Yah-nah) and I’ve been working with the Mara Hyena Project for a little over three years now. I started out as a Research Assistant in our Serena Camp in 2019, before joining the lab officially as a PhD student last summer. After finishing my first year of classes at MSU, I returned to Kenya at the beginning of last month to help teach BEAM, a study-abroad course run through the Holekamp lab for MSU undergrads. After BEAM, I spent a couple of weeks in Serena Camp before heading over to Talek Camp. That’s right! This Serena girl is making the Big Move to Talek!* If everything goes according to plan, I will be working with the Pond Clan over in Talek until April 2023 for my dissertation research. So, if you’re a Talek fan, rejoice! This blog will be featuring lots of exciting updates in the next coming months. And if you’re a Serena fan, fret not! This post will focus exclusively on our beloved clans, and I hope to visit Serena Camp while I’m out here. So, let’s get started!

*For our new readers, we have two camps: Talek Camp, which is in the Main Reserve, and Serena Camp, which is in the Mara Triangle. These two camps allow us to compare how hyenas respond to different management strategies and disturbance levels.

South Clan

OWEN, the dominant cub of MPRS's first litter
South Clan is back to its former glory and truly living its best life right now. Brian Heath, the Conservancy manager, burned a big portion of their territory earlier this year, which means lots of delicious new grass. Yum, hyenas love grass! Not quite… but their prey does. Impalas, warthogs, Thomson’s gazelles, zebras… you name it, South territory has lots of it. And lots of prey = lots of big, fat, happy hyenas = lots of new cubs. The South communal den currently has 11 cubs romping around, including 4 black ones. Most notable, MPRS, who was just a cub herself when I first met her, is nursing her first litter of two – DYDA and OWEN. They grow up so quickly! *MPRS: Empress Cicada, DYDA: Eko Dyddah, OWEN: Dady Owen

Happy Zebra Clan

CHET, JLYR's latest offspring and one of the newer cubs at the HZ den
Happy Zebra Clan is still obsessed with buffalos. When I first returned to Serena Camp, David, our Kenyan Research Assistant, was complaining that he rarely saw the hyenas away from the den. Though I could commiserate, I knew that I had hacked the secret to finding HZ hyenas while I was den hunting for 4 months last year: buffalo herds. Sure enough, the next day we headed straight to a big buffalo herd, where we managed to see 7-8 hyenas. Within a couple of days, we even found their new communal den, aptly named Buffalo Den. Unlike South, their communal den is relatively boring right now – I only saw 4-5 cubs during my two weeks in Serena Camp. Nonetheless, both JLYR and ANDO have new black cubs. The Great Migration should also arrive next month, so hopefully they will have more prey around and experience a cub boom soon. *JLYR: Jolly Roger, ANDO: Andor, CHET: Mary Critchett

North Clan

YANA, daughter of the current matriarch and hopefully future matriarch of North Clan

North Clan has been unusually elusive. During the nine months that I was back in the States, David only had their communal den for 3 weeks. Unfortunately, half of their territory turns into an impenetrable swamp during the rainy seasons, so our den hunting is very limited during those times. However, the long rains are officially over as of last week, so hopefully the territory will dry up soon. Either way, the North Clan hyenas graced us with a big hippo carcass, so I was able to confirm that the two most important hyenas are still alive: WAFL and YANA. WAFL was even nice enough to deposit a fecal sample for me to collect – science at its finest! *WAFL: Waffles, YANA: Solyanka

Spotted in Serena:

MPRS with her two cubs, DYDA and OWEN

I may have lost some of my photography skills while I was gone...

Staying warm on a cold and rainy morning

South Clan getting ready to steal a warthog from three lionesses

ANUB showing off the hippo skull he found

What a gorgeous field site!

Some quality bonding time between two brothers

ELDR from Happy Zebra following the buffalo

Lions are thriving in the Triangle right now!

Cub cuddle puddle 

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science