Wildebeest migration is one of the finest wildlife showcases in the world.
Beginning July, close to two million wildebeests, accompanied by up to 400,000 gazelles, 300,000 zebras, 12,000 eland and many predators migrate from Serengeti National Park in Tanzania into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve — their “mating bedroom.”
It is a spectacular sight that attracts tourists keen on witnessing the seventh wonder of the world or what is also referred to as the world cup of the wild. While a big number of the wildebeest stay at the Masai Mara National Reserve others move to the neighbouring conservancies and the adjoining Loita plains.
The stampede that occurs as millions of animals cross the Mara River from Serengeti to Masai Mara is the ultimate splendor of the wildebeest migration.
“The animals face numerous perils during their journey across the river such as hungry crocodiles and larger carnivores that wait to prey on them on shores. The struggle to make it across the river alive is a big highlight of the migration,” says Allan Earnshaw, a wildlife conservationist .
In November when finally the pastures in Masai Mara have depleted, the wildebeest return to Serengeti National Park. The period between January and February is the calving season. Even though wildebeest are, by nature, migratory animals, there are those that remain in the Maasai Mara ecosystem throughout the year.
Results of the mating season are seen between January and February when the wildebeest females calve in a synchronised manner of within two to three weeks period. According to Allan the synchronisation of the births is an evolutionary strategy that aims at ensuring that there is saturation of calves for the predators that create a glut for them. This enables the calves to survive through the first few crucial weeks.
“The reduced mortality of the calves serves to compensate for the numerous wildebeest preyed on during the migration by predators in Mara-Serengeti ecosystem and crocodiles in Mara River,” he says. During this period in the southern plains of Serengeti where the grass is short close to 400,000 calves are born. Close to 8,000 calves are born daily— 300 per hour.