Conservationists are concerned over the sudden and uncharacteristic change in the migratory pattern of wildebeest when, instead of spending two months in Kenya's Maasai Mara, the animals stayed just three weeks before returning south to Tanzania.
Although the conservationists are united in their concern over the wildebeest's early departure, they are divided over the possible reason, which remains a puzzle. Some blame climate change while others cite encroaching human activity. Some ecologists have singled out the Kenyan side of the Serengeti where an increasing amount of hotels are being built and where over-grazing by cattle has led to the depletion of much of the natural green cover.
Experts also say that a single motor vehicle can alter the course of an entire herd, and that this disruption to the wildebeest ancient migration pattern could discourage the animals from going to the Maasai Mara in future.
Each year – some time between mid-August and the end of October – the 1.5 million-strong herd of wildebeest migrates from Tanzania to Kenya, seemingly timed to coincide with the annual pattern of rainfall and grass growth. The herd also comprises nearly 300,000 zebras, gazelles and other grazing animals.
Tour operators are concerned about the possible change in wildebeest migration as it may affect their future tour programming.