Every year, over 1.2 million wildebeests make a spirited migration to grazing lands around the Serengeti and Maasai Mara.
In a visual play of survival of the fittest, we get to see mother nature display her unique charm in spectacular fashion around the Mara river.
On Sunday, afternoon over 300 wildebeests died as they crossed the Mara River in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The remains of floating carcasses filled the river as vultures tried to compete with crocodiles for the meat. Conservationists termed the developments as tragic, arguing that the animals picked a wrong crossing point. Due to the ongoing heavy rains, the river is quite swollen resulting in a stampede. A group of game rangers disembarked from their watchpoints and tried to rescue some of the calves that were stuck in the trenches.
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During a migration, it is estimated that 10,000 wildebeests lose their lives to poachers, predators, natural causes, and stampedes.
However, according to Eddy Nkoitoi the Chief game warden at the Maasai Mara, this year’s crossing were disastrous. Despite the sympathy from the rangers, there isn't much they could do as they cannot interfere. Currently, the wildebeests are heading towards River Talek where they graze and mate.
What do we know about the annual wildebeest migration?
It was named one of the seven wonders of the world. The animals know the risks face by crossing the river and go about it anyway. Every year, the horde gathers by the river bank and crosses with a few hundred losses from drowning and crocodiles, however, never before have so many perished in a single day.
Hundreds of tourists make it to the crossings every year atop their open-roofed off-road vehicles and watch this marvel of nature unfold.
The migration starts in the heart of the Serengeti where over 500,000 calves are born in the first quarter of the year. As the rains dry off in May, the lush green grass dries up prompting the herd to move in their search for pasture in the Mara.
The migrations take place in 150,000 square miles of grassland, woodland, and open plains that form the wilderness. July to October is peak-season when thousands of tourists flock to watch the much-dreaded crossings. Wildebeests skirt the river shores crossing at different points each day.
Legacy in death
According to NatGeo, drowned wildebeests contribute to Mara’s ecosystem. Crocodiles can only eat as much, while the bulk of the carcasses decompose and nourish the ecosystem.
For instance, a decaying skeleton takes 7 years to complete their cycle, while slowly releasing phosphorus into the river.