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Wildebeest Migration

Wildebeest Migration

It is difficult to visualize the annual spectacle of one and a half million grazers moving across the vast Serengeti toward the champagne colored hills of Kenya’s Maasai Mara. Over 90% of the animals are wildebeest, zebra and gazelle (including Thompson's gazelle, eland, and impala) make up the remaining numbers. The herds migrate in a clockwise fashion over 1,800 miles each year in search of rain-ripened grass while being relentlessly tracked by Africa’s great predators.

There seems to be no real beginning or end, as the life cycle of these animals is a never-ending search for food and water. But they do make time for the annual rut, and an estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during a six-week period at the beginning of each year, usually between late January and mid-March.

Each year in late November/early December, after the early rains have nourished the earth, herds of wildebeest arrive on the short-grass plains of the Serengeti. The beginnings of the migration emerge from the grasslands south and east of Seronera, around Ndutu, and including the northern Ngorongoro. Dispersed across these plains, wildebeest and zebra are everywhere, feeding on the fresh grasses.

Sometime around April they start to move north, and, by May, the area around Moru Kopjes is hectic, with series of shifting columns, often containing hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, marching north. Around June, the wildebeest migration halts at the Grumeti River whose channels impede their progress. Wildebeest then congregate here in the western corridor until overwhelming density pushes them into the river.

September finds the herds spread out across the northern Serengeti where the Mara River provides the migration with its most serious obstacle. It is common to see herds cross the Mara River north on one day and then crossing back south a few days later. By October the herds are migrating again, this time with more cohesion, through western Loliondo and the Serengeti’s Lobo area, returning to the renewed fields of the southern Serengeti by November.

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