The Great Wildebeest Migration
It is rated as one of the world’s most spectacular natural events. Starring wildebeest as the principle players, featuring minor characters the predators and scavengers, staged in two different countries and a major obstacle – the Mara river.
No where in the world is there a movement of animals as immense as the wildebeest migration, over two million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya from July through to October.
It is mid – may in the Serengeti and the dry season is well underway. The stage is set for the millions of wildebeest to embark on their long journey, hundreds of kilometers north word, to the Masai Mara. The Mara receives a fair amount of rainfall compared to the Serengeti. Rain falls here throughout the year, with peaks usually in April, May and August. Plenty of grass remains after the Serengeti plains to the South have dried up.
Late August and the wildebeest have been on the march for about three months. Exhausted and emaciated and almost on the end of their journey they encounter the Mara river a natural frontier that separates the Mara in Kenya and Serengeti in Tanzania. The wildebeest are in a dreadful state, the plains have been trampled on for days and there’s nothing left to graze.
The youngest and weakest collapse and remain where they fall. Green pastures lie ahead but so does the final ordeal – fording the Mara River. The wildebeest converge on the river, in their tens of thousands, massing on the banks awaiting the moment when the more fearless among them will take the plunge. Meanwhile the scavengers and predators await in anticipation, they sense the critical moment is near. The victims rarely miss an appointment.
The plunge begins, driven by hunger and urged on by the mass, the first few on the front-line jump, the rest follow transfixed by this wild frenzy. The first among them gets across, getting out of the river is just as dangerous as the opposite bank wall is too steep.
Thousands of animals are trying to ford the river at this point – a recipe for disaster! The muddy rocks offer little grip to their hooves, the breathtaking spectacle is turning to tragedy. The wildebeest seem programmed to carry on with their journey come what may.
Some break their backs leaping from the steep banks but it does not seem to matter, what matters is to keep going. This is the last step of their long journey, they must reach the opposite bank without drowning or being swept downstream by the river current. Most make their way out, but quite a number are trampled upon.