23 July 2009

Predators, Prey, and People

The carnivore program has experienced several major changes in the last couple months. First, we have had some recent good luck in radio-collaring lions and spotted hyenas. We now have 4 lions (2 males, 2 females) fit with radio collars. One male and female come from the Sampu pride, which is named after the Olkiramatian eco-tourism project in the area they reside. The second male and female come from the Lengong pride, a Maasai word for the bushy habitat along the Ewaso Nyiro river, where these lions spend a lot of time. There is one more known lion pride in the Shompole area, which we hope to study in more detail in the coming year. Additionally, we've observed another lion (our 20th confirmed individual) in the far reaches of our study area to the south. This male lion presents either a fourth pride or is a migrant passing through the area. We look forward to figuring this out soon.

We now also have 2 spotted hyenas radio-collared. One spotted hyena comes from a clan on the east side of the Ewaso Nyiro river, that resides strictly on Maasai group ranch lands. The second spotted hyena comes from a clan that spends some time inside the community conservation area and other times outside on the Maasai group ranch lands. It will be very interesting to see how their behaviors compare across these different land use strategies.

The carnivore team has also hired two new research assistants, Loserem Mpukere Meitamei and Philip Oltubulai Mwae from Olkiramatian and Shompole group ranches, respectively. These veteran Maasai researchers have joined forces with Michael Kapoli and Patrick Moikinyo to conduct the camera surveys across Olkiramatian and Shompole. Our research assistants conduct these camera surveys completely on their own, allowing research to continue while I am away in the U.S. for coursework and lab work at Montana State University. We welcome them to the team and look forward to working with them for a long time to come…