The Great Wildebeest Migration

At the heart of the Serengeti ecosystem lies an ancient phenomenon that is the largest movement of wildlife on earth. In pursuit of food and water, over more one and a half million wildebeest and half a million zebra and antelope migrate north from the Serengeti to the adjoining Masai Mara reserve in Kenya every year.

The Migration Snapshot
  • A million Wildebeest each one driven by the same ancient rhythm.
  • Fulfilling its instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life.
  • Frenzied three weeks bout of territorial conquests and mating.
  • Survival of the fittest as 40km {25 milles} long columns plunge through crocodile infested waters on the annual exodus north to the Maasai Mara.
  • Relishing the species in brief population explosion that produces more than 8000 calves daily around the Ndutu before the 1000km {600miles} pilgrimage begins again.
Inescapable Circle of Life

SHORT GRASS PLAINS – December to March

Vast herds of wildebeest spend the rainy season in the volcanic open plains below the Ngorongoro Crater and in the Southern Serengeti where the grass growth is most productive with a high nutrient content. This area is the starting point for one of the great wonders of the world: the Serengeti annual wildebeest migration.

As the sea of grass provides little cover and the young are easy pickings for a variety of predators, wildebeest have therefore evolved synchronized birthing, which means, about 90% of calves are born within a three-week period. With such a sudden and massive surge of available food, predators do not make any significant dent in the newborn calf population. Wildebeest calves can run minutes after they are born. Within three days the calves are strong enough to keep up with the herd.

WESTERN CORRIDOR – April to May

As the grass is depleted in the Southern Serengeti the herds move to the plains and woodlands of the Serengeti’s Western Corridor. For the migrants there is a high mortality rate due to injury and perhaps fatigue, so large numbers of griffon vultures follow the herds on their journey. Northwest from the short grass plains is the Grumeti River. This watercourse is their first real obstacle and gigantic Nile crocodiles (growing up to 6 meters in length) are waiting for the hesitant wildebeest to stumble at the crossing. Their livelihood are inextricably linked with the great migration. Moving with surprising stealth and speed, they prey upon the thirsty herds as they drink from and cross the river.

NORTHERN – June

Following the rainfalls, the wildebeest migration moves north before crossing the Kenyan border into the Masai Mara. Nothing stops the stampeding hordes. Here again, they must cross a river, this time the Mara with its flotillas of hungry crocodiles. All is far from peaceful, for it is the rutting season and each male tries to establish a stamping ground. After moving westwards, the migration divides by some uncanny instinct, one group turning northeast and the other due north.

NORTHERN AND MAASAI MARA – July, August, September, October

The mass of grunting wildebeests remain on the productive Mara grasslands until October or November during a time when the rest of the ecosystem is simply too dry to support them. And then, as the storm clouds gather in the south, the vast herds return to their breeding grounds, which, by the time they arrive, are once again green and lush.

LOBO AND WESTERN CORRIDOR – November

The mass of grunting wildebeests remain on the productive Mara grasslands until October or November during a time when the rest of the ecosystem is simply too dry to support them. And then, as the storm clouds gather in the south, the vast herds return to their breeding grounds, which, by the time they arrive, are once again green and lush.

The wildebeest migration is rarely ever precisely the same in terms of timing and direction, as local conditions influence grass growth. So it is, that the wildebeest may move off the open plains earlier in some years, and remain in the northern woodlands for longer, in others.

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The Migration Map

JANUARY
FEBRUARY
MARCH
APRIL
MAY
JUNE
JULY
AUGUST
SEPTEMBER
OCTOBER
NOVEMBER
DECEMBER

Other Migrations in The World.

Here are a few other” Great migration “that happen around the word.

  1. SALMON- big schools of fish move from the ocean high up rivers, over waterfalls to reach a shallow, stony place to breed. The adult die and the next generation swim back to sea: Round trip can be 4000km!
  2. American monarch butterfly- moves between the great lakes in the north down to Mexico, A distance of 2-3000km!!! In the south where they spend the winter, they gather on large trees, so tight that you cannot see the tree back any more.
  3. Caribou- a large deer (not quit an antelope!) that moves in herds of up to 100,000 animals, moves between the open Arctic tundra (summer) and the forest (winter). Round trip might be about 2000km: found mostly in Canada.
  4. Great migration that used to occur, but have been wiped out by man include: Springbok (South Africa), Bison- like a buffalo (North America).

Whales and Bats are some other creatures that undergo big migration in parts of the world.

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