January 19, 2014

Animal Stories from the Maasai Mara

On the Maasai Mara in East Africa, there's a small black-and-white bird, just slightly larger than a sparrow, called the Grey-Back Shrike. It's a butcher bird, which means it likes to catch insects and small animals (like frogs) and pin them to the spikes of the white thorn acacia. Just for fun.

The buffalo here are enormous with curved horns that give them the regal air of judges in high court. When the males are too old, they're evicted from their herds. The locals call these guys "retired generals." And these solo old buffalo go roaming the Mara, looking for other retired generals. They band together in roving gangs of old male buffalo. Old man gangs.

My favorite story of animal husbandry from our week on the Maasai Mara has to be the tale of the suicidal Dik Dik. The Dik Dik is an adorable little animal - sort of a cross between a deer and a bunny, the size of a Chihuahua. They have these big Disney eyes, perky pointy ears, and spend entire days just running around trees and across fields. Dik Dik mate for life. And they take their mating so seriously that if one passes away before the other, the remaining Dik Dik will commit suicide by throwing itself into the river.