The annual Wildebeest migration was named one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World”. No other place on earth can you witness such a spectacular assembly of animals going about their cyclic phase of existence. The Serengeti National Park and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve form their delicate ecosystem carved out through the centuries.
Over 2 million strong
No other place on earth hosts over 2 million wildebeests alongside some antelopes and zebras migrating from the plains of the Serengeti into the Maasai Reserve, and vice versa. Part of the animals’ migratory path takes them through the dangerous Mara River infested with giant crocodiles. This is the climax moment known that defines the wildebeest migration.
The herd displays a unique sense of swarm intelligence where they explore their surrounding problems and collectively decide to remedy it. Mid-February is traditionally the birthing season where over 8,000 calves are born every single day. The fascinating adaptation of their offspring is their ability to walk from conception. Despite the occasional attacks from predators such as lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and crocodiles that prey on their young ones, their overwhelming numbers are hardly dented.
Wildebeasts are sociable animals that accommodate other browsers and grazers within their ranks. Despite the competition for grass and pasture brought about by other grazers like zebras, they tend to coexist in harmony. Why is that possible? The three main reasons are:
Wildebeests are good at listening while zebras have better eyesight. Together, they form a formidable defense strategy.
Choice of food
Zebras are more inclined to consume the top part of the grass while the wildebeest go for the shorter grass. That way they do not compete among themselves.
Safety in numbers
Unlike other animals like the antelope or Kudu that conceal themselves in the thick bushes, the wildebeests and zebras roam the open plains. Their best safety net is to use their numbers as a defensive shield where they look out for one another.
Wildebeests move about in sync yet they lack a single distinct leader shepherding the pack. Studies done to understand their sense of organization, have turned up inconclusive. The linearity of their movement pattern forces many to believe they might have a rudimentary form of decision making.
The Serengeti ecosystem is unique. It boasts of unique plant and animal biodiversity. During the long trek, thousands of zebras and tens of thousands of wildebeest die from predators, fatigue, disease, and exhaustion. The journey casts a deep picture into Darwinism and natural selection weeding out the fittest and most resilience of the African herd.
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Facts about the Great Wildebeest Migration
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Ngiro-are Road, Kenya