THE WONDER THAT IS WILDEBEEST MIGRATION
The Wildebeest Migration, is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World” If there is a safari you should go on, this has to be it. The Maasai Mara and the Serengeti National Park come together to form the haven for this great phenomena! It is breathtaking, tantalizing and an unbelievable event to behold.
The migration has to cross the Mara River in the Maasai Mara. This is one of the highlights as the animals try and cross the Mara River alive risking the flood waters and the jaws of crocodiles preying on them.
To watch any birth is amazing but watching the wildebeest birthing verges on the incredible. A newborn wildebeest gains co-ordination faster than any other ungulates and is usually on its feet two to three minutes after birth. It can run with the herd at the age of five minutes and is able to outrun a lioness soon thereafter. Notwithstanding this, many do die within their first year, from predation, fatigue or disease. Many calves get separated from their mothers when the herds panic (which happens frequently) or cross rivers or lakes in their path. The calves then wander for days looking for mum, bleating and bawling incessantly. On rare occasions they may be lucky to find her, but no wildebeest cow will adopt a strange calf, even if she has lost her own and is lactating at the time. As it weakens, a lost calf becomes an easy victim for any watching predator, from jackal up to hyena and lion.
Some 1.4 million wildebeest, 250,000 Burch ell’s zebra and a smattering of trailing Thomson’s gazelle make the yearlong, round-trip trek from Tanzania’s Serengeti to the Masai Mara in Kenya. The herds make the 1,200-mile oval circuit with two things in mind: food and water. “The smell of rain and sound of thunder spur the migration forward, but sometimes sideways and even back,” Along the way, many migrating animals become prey to predators including lion, cheetah, crocodile and hyena. In fact, around 250,000 wildebeest and 30,000 zebra perish in this tough trek, mainly younger ones. “Many times, mother wildebeest will just start running and keep running, not knowing that their young can’t keep up,”
The wildebeest are the migration – there is neither start nor finish to their endless search for food and water, as they circle the Serengeti- Mara ecosystem in a relentless sequence of life and death. ‘The only beginning is the moment of birth and similarly the only ending is death.
For most of the year these rivers are relatively placid, but they can become violent torrents in response to rainfall in their catchments areas, and then they present major obstacles to the progress of the wildebeest.
From the western Serengeti the herds head north, following the rains (or their effects) into Kenya and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. On their trek the wildebeests’ path is cut several times by rivers: in the Serengeti by the Mbalangeti and the Grumeti, and in Kenya by the Mara.
Wildebeest arrive at the Mara River in their tens of thousands, and gather waiting to cross. For days their numbers can be building up and anticipation grows but many times, for no apparent reason, they turn and wander away from the water’s edge. Eventually the wildebeest will choose a crossing point, something that can vary from year to year and cannot be predicted with any accuracy. Usually the chosen point will be a fairly placid stretch of water without too much predator-concealing vegetation in the far side, although occasionally they will choose seemingly suicidal places and drown in their hundreds. Without a degree of natural mortality, the wildebeest population could spiral out of control
Once on the grasslands of the Maasai Mara, the wildebeest spend several months feeding and fattening once more, taking advantage of the scattered distribution of green pastures and isolated rainstorms. A remarkable feature of their wanderings is their ability to repeatedly find areas of good grazing, no matter how far apart. The physiology of the wildebeest is such that it has been designed by evolution to travel large distances very quickly and economically, apparently requiring no more energy to run a certain distance than to trudge along at walking pace. Every facet of its life and behavior is designed to save time – wildebeest even mate on the move, and newborns are, as we have seen, up and running in minutes.
In the Maasai Mara they will be hunted, stalked, and run down by the larger carnivores like Lions, leopards, hyena’s, wild dogs etc.
While the wildebeest are drawn into migrating by the needs of their stomachs, the fact that they’re constantly on the move has the added benefit that they outmarch large numbers of predators. The predators are unable to follow the moving herds very far, for many are territorial and can neither abandon their territories nor invade those of others. Moreover, the young of most predators are highly dependent upon their mothers, who can’t move very far from them.
As they cross the river, many of them die due to stampede, others swept away by the ranging waters, and those that are not lucky make a good meal for the crocodiles that prey on them
Its trully a breataking phenomena to behold. Dont miss out on the fun because we will take you right at the heart of the action.
More details: https://silverbirdsafari-africa.com/migration-map.htm
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