The Notes From Kenya blog is about to hit several milestones: two years of blogging and 200 posts. This is a perfect time to reflect on the success and gather some feedback (and have a friendly little competition among bloggers past and present).
There have been some remarkable stories shared here and we'd like your input as to which ones indeed are the best. Yes, we can look at the Google Analytics data and see that we've had 44,000 visits from people in 154 countries. That same data shows Kay's Birth Through A Soda Straw post was the most popular. This was followed closely by Kate's Mythbusters and Thrill of the Hunt and then Kay's very first post Lion-Hyena Fight.
Yet, as with many things, the numbers don't always give the entire story. Other media coverage, press releases, search engine optimization and external forces sometimes skew these numbers. For example, Kate's Crazy Things Guys Do For Girls was a big hit on Facebook; Kenna's Necropsies grossed many people out; Andy's Jingle Bells offered a twist on the holiday travel stories; and Leslie's Running in Kenya brought some visitors to the blog who were expecting personal fitness related stories.
So to mark the two year anniversary of the blog, we'd like to determine the "Fan Favorite" hyena blog post. To phrase this another way, we are going to conduct a poll.
This is where we need your help. Nominate your favorite blog post(s) using the comment space below. We'll collect the nominations and do a poll among the most popular stories. What stories are the most memorable? What stories have you enjoyed the most or passed along to friends? The comment thread is open, so please nominate as many as you like. (And yes, we do expect hyena blogging alumni to enlist their family and friends to vote for their own pieces).
Then we'll compile the nominations and put a poll up in a couple weeks. The blog post with the most votes will win. The writer of the Fan Favorite post will receive bragging rights and a pat on the back from Kay (unless the post is by Kay in which case she'll need some acknowledgement from the folks at Fisi Camp).
If you need help finding a post, use the search box or keywords listed on the left. There are plenty of great stories from the bloggers, so have at it friends and let us know what you like the best. We'd love to hear from all of our readers, so please post your comments. Thank you!
Author: Kenna Lehmann
A recent blog reader asked us what sacking out is. I really should have known to explain this in my blogs because "sacked out" was one of those terms that everyone used when I got here that left me clueless. It took me a few days of really paying attention to know what "sacking out" was referring to.
Sacking out is, most simply, when a hyena is laying down. In our data collection and notes we use this term to describe any hyena that is laying down in a variety of positions.
A sacked out hyena can be either a curse or a blessing. At times, it can be a relief to come upon a sacked out hyena. This is partly because it is easy to record in the notes and partly because it allows you plenty of time to ID the hyena without it wandering into bushes or tall grass or a lugga. Other times, a sacked out hyena is the cause of much frustration and teeth gnashing. Some hyenas love to sack out in a way that gives you no hope of identifying the hyena by spots.
Here are a few hyena sacking out strategies:
Author: Kay Holekamp
In our research camp in the eastern Mara we have two night watchmen, or “askaris” in Kiswahili. Their names are Stephen and Lusingo, and they both hail from manyattas across the river from our camp. Last night disaster struck at Stephen’s manyatta, resulting in what can only be described as a catastrophic loss of livestock.
Sometime between midnight and 1 am, a leopard climbed over the 8-foot wall of one of the livestock corral’s in Stephen's manyatta, grabbed a goat, and fled back over the wall. (This morning Stephen found the leopard asleep on a high tree-branch beside the river, with Stephen's goat --now dead, of course-- tucked into a fork in the tree.) Perhaps detecting the scent of blood from the leopard attack, a spotted hyena then approached Stephen’s manyatta, and forced its way into the same livestock corral. The terrified sheep and goats (“shoats”) stampeded and burst out of the corral through a weakly closed gate, and dispersed into the night on the open plain, where they were promptly set upon by a large group of hyenas. Stephen, who was at work guarding our camp at the time, received a call on his cell phone at 1 am telling him the hyenas were mowing down his shoats, so he rushed home.
None of the hyena researchers in camp were aware then of what had happened, but this morning Stephen found us and led us to his manyatt, where the scene can only be described as carnage: dead and damaged shoats all over the place, and the surviving shoats huddled together, still apparently terrified. Women and men were trying to salvage what meat they could from the carcasses of the dead ones, and cleaning what was left of the skins. Stephen had tallied the losses, which totaled 50 shoats, each valued at roughly 3000 Kenya shillings ($45.00 US). We have no funds for any sort of compensation scheme here, so all we could do today was to buy several kilos of shoat meat at filet mignon prices to help Stephen recoup some of his losses. This is one of those situations where, despite the fact that the killer hyenas were not among the ones we study, nor did we have anything to do with this awful event, the hyena researchers feel absolutely terrible for Stephen and his family, as this represents a huge financial loss. We will now do whatever we can to help them cope with this disaster, including strengthening their corrals to keep out marauding predators in the future.
Notes From Kenya is a blog run by the students in the Holekamp Lab at Michigan State University, College of Natural Science, East Lansing, Michigan, U.S.A.