The infamous wildebeest migration is an extraordinary occurrence that is enjoyed between the months of July and October by hundreds of tourists who find their way to the Maasai Mara. The migration takes places between the Serengeti ecosystem and the Mara national reserve, allowing human beings to have a slight peek into the world of these magnificent creatures. However, most people have very little facts about the migration other than it involves a river crossing. Below are some little known truths about the same.
It is a year round cycle
The great wildebeest migration does not occur only between July and October. It is a cycle that takes place all year round. As one can see on this map, the migration starts at the southern part of the Serengeti between January and March. The migration then moves north into Kenya between July and October then back south to different parts of the Serengeti until they get back to their starting point.
It starts with new life
Between December and March, an estimate 8000 wildebeest calves are born every day! This means that in a month, almost quarter a million individuals come to life. This period is thus known as the calving period. It is also the only time where you can see the wildebeest all together in one large herd. Due to the vulnerability of the calves, hunting happens in high intensity at this time and so the wildebeest start their migration north in search of safety.
Then comes the drought
The Serengeti plains experience a short period of drought between June and September. This is the time where the wildebeest enter the Maasai Mara to escape the harsh conditions and get more water and food for them and their young ones.
There are four river crossings in total
Most people believe that the Mara River crossing is the only one the Wildebeest have to get across. However, there are two rivers, the Mara and the Grumeti River. The latter is located in the western part of the Serengeti and is also crocodile-infested. The wildebeest have to cross the two rivers on their way to the Mara and then cross them again on their way back to Serengeti making the river crossings to be a total of four as opposed to the more popularized two.
The famous Mara crossing happens in Kenya
Most people have the wrong notion that the Mara River is a border between Kenya and Tanzania. They, therefore, believe that the wildebeest crossing is an official welcome to Kenya. However, as one can see in the linked map, the Mara crossing we see from Kenya is in fact between Kenya and Kenya. It is also the wildebeest second crossing of the river on their way back to the Serengeti. The first crossing happens in the Tanzanian part of the Mara River.
Approximately 2 million animals migrate
Although the migration is dubbed the wildebeest migration, it actually involves a great number of zebras, antelopes and gazelles. Granted that the wildebeest are the majority of individuals, the animals travel together because of their symbiotic relationships.
There are huge losses
By the end of the migration, approximately 250,000 animals die. Most of them die from predation by the crocodiles and carnivores. The rest, however, die from exhaustion and dehydration.
The migration is long
The whole circuit of the wildebeest migration is approximately 800 kilometres making it the largest land and mammal migration in the world.
It is no longer a world wonder
Given the new list of Seven Wonders of the World, the wildebeest migration did not make it. However, it remains a fascinating site, which draws people from all over the world to witness.
The migration is planned and intelligent
Even though the wildebeest do not have a herd leader, the migration happens in an organized manner and individuals never stray away. The herd adopts the swarm technique where they face predators and other obstacles as one big unit thus keeping each other safe. In less dangerous parts, the animals may split into smaller herds, all following the same route but at different times. The animals never bump into each other or kill each other when in panic.