Wildebeests and The Great Migration in Serengeti park
Wildebeests and the Great Migration are one of the remarkable attractions in Serengeti national park and a reason to why the park’s visited by millions of visitors for a Tanzania wildlife safari.
Wildebeests are locally known as Nyumbu in local Swahili language, these animals are even toed, horned and greyish- brown with striking resemblance to cattle, they are also called gnus and they belong to the Bovidae Family which also includes antelopes, cattle, sheep and other even – toed horned ungulates.
In the wildebeest family, males are larger than females and both have heavy forequarters compared to their hindquarters. They have a large, box – like head with curving horns, their front end of the body is heavily built and the hindquarters are slender with spindly legs. They also have a great coat, a black mane and a beard in either black or white.
Wildebeests can grow to reach the length of 8 feet and 4.5 feet tall and the shower, both males and females grow horns and they can weight up to 600 pounds.
There are several species or races of wildebeests and the ones found in Serengeti – Mara ecosystem of Kenya and Tanzania are the western white-bearded wildebeests, in the east of the Gregory Rift in Kenya and Tanzania there are the eastern white bearded species and the brindled or blue in south of the Zambezi River.
The wildebeests were named the “Gnu produced as “g-new” by the Afrikaans because of their menacing appearance presented by its large head, shaggy mane, pointed beard and sharp, curved horns.
The wildebeests are best described as a reliable source of food for the African savannah predators that are lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas and leopards.
Behavior and Diet of Wildebeests
Wildebeest are more driven by their appetites through their lives, they are large animals that is why the continuously move in search for favorable supplies of grass and water. The famous population of wildebeests in Serengeti is a very large nomadic group which makes a migratory journey of 800 to 1,610 wildebeests each year, the journey begins right after the calving season at the start of the year.
The wildebeests are very restless in their journey and many get injured, lost most especially the calves or get killed by predators such as lions, leopards, hyenas and high-speed running water of the river.
By the end of the dry season, the wildebeest have almost exhausted the grazing lands in the Mara – Serengeti Ecosystem and return to the Serengeti plains at the start of the rain.
Quick Facts About Wildebeests
Wildebeests are noisy creatures
Bulls have a wide array of loud vocalizations, from moans to explosive snorts.
The majority of female wildebeests give birth around the same time
About 80 percent of the female calves are within the same two to three-week period, this create a glut for predators and enables more calves to survive the crucial first few weeks after their birth.
Habitat and Range of Wildebeests
The habitat of wildebeests comprises of the grassy plains and open woodlands of central, southern and East Africa particularly in the Serengeti national park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The wildebeests travel in large herds and are active day and night grazing constantly.
In search for green pasture and water, the wildebeests embark on an annual journey across the Serengeti – Mara Ecosystem following an old route, their movement is dictated by weather patterns. The migration is considered one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth involving over 2 million wildebeests as well as hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles.
Over 500,000 calves are born in February and March each year at the beginning of the rainy season, calves learn to walk within minutes of birth and within day they are able to keep up with the herd.
Wildebeests can live up to 20 years old.
The Great Migration
The Great Migration also referred to as The Annual Wildebeest Migration is an annual continuous movement of large numbers of wildebeest accompanied by zebras and gazelles in search for food and water. The movement of these herds happen in different sections of Serengeti national park but the most recognized is a trans – destination between Serengeti national park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya “Mara – Serengeti Eco system” passing through Mara River East of Grumeti River Valley through Lobo.
The Great Migration is the major highlight of a Tanzania wildlife safari attracting millions of tourists visiting to witness this spectacular event of life were more than 1.5 million wildebeests, 250,000 zebras and 300,000 gazelles migrate to Serengeti national park, these animals are driven by an instinct of survival.
The Migration is more dramatic as the wildebeests and other grazers “zebras and gazelles” are seen throwing themselves into waters of the Mara River infested with fierce Nile Crocodiles, some of the animals are washed by the high speed running water and others fall victim to crocodiles and other predators along the banks of the river. The Mara River Crossing is a moment of survival for the fittest, once the animals make it into the waters, there is no turning back.
The Great Migration is the biggest migration of land animals on earth and is considered as one of the greatest spectacles in the natural world, the migration is frequently featured in wildlife documentaries of the National Geographic Channel.
The Wildebeest Migration in Serengeti national park happens in different regions and in different times of the year.
Southern Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
The southern Serengeti wildebeest migration starts in late December with a climax in January before the wildebeests start coming back in March to the Central Part of Serengeti. This episode of the migration is referred to as “Calving Season” or “Calving Season Migration” happening in the southern part of Serengeti and the northern part of the Ngorongoro Conservation area in the Ndutu region.
The wildebeests together with zebras, kobs and other grazers gather on the plains to build up a strong team after giving birth to young ones.
In the calving season, over 1000 young ones are born on a daily basis, these young ones attract a lot of predators as food is plenty through taking advantage of newly born staggering animals.
Western Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
This occurs at around April to early June during the rainy season, large herds of grazers such as elands, zebras, gazelles led by wildebeests move around the western corridor of Serengeti – South of Grumeti River. This is one of the deadliest migration in Serengeti due to the high concentration of predators both on water that is Nile Crocodiles and on land such as leopards, lions, cheetahs and African wild dogs. Hundreds of wildebeests lose their life during the migration more than any episode of the migration.
Northern Serengeti Wildebeest Migration
This happens from July to September as animals cross Mara River to enter the plains of Maasai Mara National Reserve of Kenya, this is the most spectacular of the migration and is listed as one of the seven wonders of animals on earth. It takes place in the extreme north of Serengeti National Park around Lamai Triangle and it is the largest and the mass wildebeest migration.
Wildebeests through themselves in water amidst Nile Crocodiles, the most spectacular part of this migration is that no one can tell the exact date the wildebeests are going to cross the river, the predators can camp there just in time waiting for the great opportunity.
If you are interested in the wildebeest migration, you can visit Serengeti national park in July and return back to Masai Mara in October to witness the full episode.
During the journey from Tanzania to Maasai Mara National Reserve in Southwestern Kenya, over 800 kilometers die from thirst, hunger, exhaustion or being taken as prey by predators.