I learned just how accustomed I am to North American wildlife patterns.  In much of North America, you see wildlife only sporadically, as for instance in Yellowstone Park you can easily drive for an hour and not see a bear.

In this part of Masai Mara, it is unusual to drive for more than thirty seconds without seeing something interesting.  And very commonly you can see a tableau of multiple animals, such as buffalo, Thomson’s gazelle, warthogs, and zebras, all together at once.

On those 4-5 hour drives around the plains, usuually I am thinking about “solving for the equilibrium.”  When you see a group of dik-diks, the immediate thought is “how do they escape the cheetahs?”  You wonder what is the optimal number of a buffalo grouping to repel a lion attack, without crowding or overgrazing on a particular patch of land.

How close can your open vehicle come to the lions without arousing excessive interest?  (Closer than you might think.)

When should a pride of lions split into two groups, balancing strength of collective attack against food scarcity?

Why do cheetahs go about it solo?  And how is that fact related to their propensity to win chases on the basis of extreme bursts of speed?

Can you model why the zebras and wildebeest seem to get along so well together?

What is the deadweight loss from the fact that wildebeest use property allocation — over which the males fight — to attract females?

I have noticed that the guides are implicitly Lamarckian in their theorizing.

As dusk arrives, many of the larger cats become more active.  And so the potential prey wake up and move to more open territory, where they can see predators arriving.  They group and spread themselves out (optimally?), to maximize their own collective field of vision and aural acuity, in case a predator should approach.  Those patterns are gone by the late morning.

There is definitely a set of land value gradients here, noting that waterholes are both a) super-valuable, and b) the place where you are most vulnerable to predators.  Few potential prey wish to settle there, though they will visit and make haste to leave.

I enjoy watching the prey trigger equilibrium of “My durability in running speed exceeds yours, so I can hang around and expect you won’t charge me, at least not if I keep a safe enough distance.  Furthermore, if I don’t run away I can keep you in plain view, which is preferable in any case.”

So my biggest surprise is how visible the notion of equilibrium is here.

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