May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized
The Annual Wildebeests migration in Kenya and Tanzania is the most spectacular natural event in Africa. This event which usually starts in late June to early July every year since time immemorial is an event of lasting memory. Annually,in May, over 3 million animals depart the Western Corridor for the northern Serengeti plains and in the month of July, the herds cross the mostly dry tributary of the Serengeti – Mara ecosystem which is part of the boundary line between Kenya and Tanzania – The Sand River. These animals usually do not know that they are migrating as they mow the grass along the Migration triangle until when they reach the banks of the River Mara, by this time they will have passed into the Kenyan Maasai Mara without noticing since there exists an artificial border. The Migration follows westwards, leading the Wildebeests(gnus) to face the major challenge along their quest; crossing the Mara river and also frequently,its tributary, the Talek. On seeing the fresh, tender and mineral-rich pastures on the other side of the river Mara, in Masai Mara,the gnus trek along the bank of the Mara river looking for a suitable point to cross. There are many preferred crossings points along the river, which are easily identifiable by the animals since they can be seen from both sides of the river. These are the depressed slopes and the deep grooves carved by the animals’ hooves. These are the secure places to cross the river since they ensure least mortality.
However, the arrangement of the whole crossing programme sometimes seems to fail, and the nervous Wildebeests herds usually choose places where the banks are too steep and many of the animals break their legs down the cliff. The animals will then plunge into the River Mara, this seems to haul the rest of the herd which marches forward without fear of the awaiting trunk-looking basking Crocodiles that populate the steep banks of the Mara River, ready to celebrate their annual feasting. Other animals follow in a single line across the river, while the lagged ones throw themselves towards the stream until the rearguard pushes the troops to a frantic race that ends up with some animals trampled to death. The crossing of the river is the most fascinating scene along the migration, and this seems to place the gnus in a state of anxiety that only relieves when the whole herd has crossed and are on the other side of the river. After crossing the river, herds gather at various points and wander around nervously. Thereafter,a team leader will then take the lead and approach the rim, surveying the opposite side to ascertain if any danger awaits after the crossing. During the months of July and August, the crossings repeat over and over, and the survivors graze peacefully on the Mara Triangle grasslands. The Predators; the lion and cheetah usually on their heels in the early-morning and late-evening hunting spree. The cheetah preying on the calves. Towards end of October, the animals will have eaten nearly all the best grass and the rains also head south back to the Serengeti. Then the migration reverses, bringing the herds to face once more, the quest for the southern grasslands. The crossing of the Mara river is again a must. By the end of October, the migration heads towards the vast plains of the southern Serengeti, where a new generation of calves will be born to start the cycle of life all over again. Often, over a million animals can be seen stretched out. Normally the route is down the eastern side and the pace is fast.