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Animals Heading Back Early To Serengeti National Park

Mystery as great wildebeest migration cut short in Maasai Mara Game Reserve

Adam Ihucha, eTN  Oct 26, 2010

(eTN) - A rare episode is happening in a great Serengeti–Mara ecosystem. The nature's most spectacular event of wildebeest migration is making a surprise revolution of its traditional movement.

From time immemorial, the wildebeest used to roam in Maasai Mara for at least three months, surprising this year they have spent less than the usual period.

This fascinating episode in recent history caught the ecologists in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya offguard.

Right now, ecologists are tightly watching this unusual early return of this year’s great wildebeest migration from the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

“This time around, the wildebeest were supposed to be in Maasai Mara, but surprisingly they are starting to [head] back in [to the] Serengeti,” Tanzania National Parks Authority spokesperson, Pascal Shelutete said in Arusha.

Some conservationists speculate that last year’s drought, which for the most part scorched part of the East African region’s thick vegetation and dried up its rivers, killing thousands of animals, might have disrupted the natural wildebeest movement.

A leading TANAPA ecologist, Dr. James Wakibara, said that they are considering consulting their counterparts in Maasai Mara to explore whether the new phenomenon has something to do with the change of weather patterns.

Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), the state-run marketing agency said the sudden U-turn of the great wildebeest migration calls for scientific research to establish the factors behind the dramatic phenomenon.

“I am aware of [the] wildebeest migration['s] late departure from Serengeti to Maasai Mara, and the early return to Serengeti. Is this a climatic change phenomenon? Let the scientists find out,” The TTB managing director, Dr. Aloyce Nzuki said in an email statement.

To the surprise of many, the wildebeest came back early in the Serengeti, the TTB chief said, suggesting there were neither enough green grass nor enough water in the far north.

As of early August, some wildebeest were still to be seen in the northern part of the Serengeti and in the southern part of the Masai Mara around the Sand River and in the Trans-Mara areas.

By early September, an estimated 200,000 wildebeest crossed over the to the Klein's area east of the Serengeti, however, the bulk of the mega-herd remains in the Mara Triangle.

Traditionally, the great wildlife migration spends three months in Maasai Mara and nine months in the Serengeti, Dr. Nzuki said, adding that for this year it appears it was 2 and 10 months in Maasai Mara and Serengeti, respectively.
“This is what makes an interesting research case, to establish whether striking change of the wildebeest migration is normal or otherwise,” Dr. Nzuki stressed.

Information reaching eTurboNews in Arusha said that huge herds of wildebeest had arrived two months early at &Beyond Klein’s Camp in western Tanzania.

&Beyond company said on its website that an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 wildebeest are currently happily grazing the wilderness concession, which has never been seen before at Klein’s!

“The views are impressive, with herds as far as the eye can see, and the daily sightings have been exciting particularly when three wildebeest were recently taken down by lions in one sighting,” &Beyond writes on its website.

The firm further said that over in the Masai Mara, the mega-herd remains in the Mara Triangle, with plenty of movement back and forth.

Many herds that left the Triangle last week have now returned, because the recent rain has encouraged new grass growth.

“And of course, with the herds moving in so many different directions, the Mara River crossings continue on a daily basis, allowing for even more great sightings,” the information said.

The endless plains of East Africa are the setting for the world’s greatest wildlife spectacle - the 1.5 million animal ungulate (wildebeest) migrations.

From the sprawling Serengeti plains to the champagne-colored hills of Kenya’s Masai Mara, over 1.4 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebra and gazelle, relentlessly tracked by Africa’s great predators, migrate in a clockwise fashion over 1,800 miles each year in search of rain-ripened grass.

There is no real beginning or end to a wildebeest's journey. Its life is an endless pilgrimage, a constant search for food and water. The only beginning is at the moment of birth. An estimated 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during a six-week period early each year - usually between late January and mid-March.

Nearly 700,000 tourists visiting the legendary Tanzania northern tourist circuit annually have toured the Serengeti and been fascinated by its millions of wildebeest each, driven by the same ancient rhythm, fulfilling their instinctive role in the inescapable cycle of life.

"This is a fourth time for me to visit Serengeti; to be honest, the secret behind my coming is only to watch the never-ceasing, incoming and outgoing of millions of wildebeest [that] takes place here every year," said Edwin Andrew, a leader of tourists from Europe told eTurboNews in Arusha.

Mystery as great wildebeest migration cut short in Maasai Mara Game Reserve
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