The Great Serengeti Migration refers to the annual massive movement of wildebeests, zebras and Thomson’s gazelles between Tanzania and Kenya. The mammals migrate to Kenya in search of water and fresh pastures.
About 1.5 million wildebeests, 500,000 gazelles and 200,000 zebras migrate each year. However not all them reach their final destination. This is mainly due to thirst, hunger, exhaustion and being preyed by predators.
10 Characteristics Of Great Migration
- Largest migration on land
Great Migration is the single largest movement of mammals since about 2 million animals migrate annually between Tanzania and Kenya. This massive movement can’t be compared to any other animal migration. This natural event creates a great adventurous experience leaving you with lifetime memories.
2. Major Movement Occurs in Tanzania
Most of the migration takes place in Tanzania with the exception of few months in Kenya. This is between July and October when they cross Mara river.
January- March; calving season where wildebeests concentrates around lake Ndutu in Ngorongoro for giving birth
April – May; the herds move into the southern plains of Serengeti extending to Western corridor and Seronera
June – July; herds spilt up into smaller groups into the central part of Serengeti where the first group arrive at Kogatende area while others proceed to Bologonja river
August- October; crossing season where herds cross over the Maasai mara river towards Kenya
November – December; herds return by this time to the fresh pastures in Serengeti plains. By December, they return to Ndutu for calving season where the whole process starts all over again.
3. It’s not just wildebeest
The migration doesn’t only involve wildebeests but include a large number of zebras. The animals travel together because their adaptations complement each other.
- Wildebeests feed on short grasses while zebras have long front teeth designed for tall grasses. Hence zebras act like lawnmowers for the wildebeests
- Wildebeests are also natural water diviners allowing them to detect water several kilometers away
- Zebras on the other hand have better memories allowing them to recall last year’s movement routes, danger and safety zones in details. This allows them to detect crocodiles before Mara river crossing
- Both animals move in great number which acts as a defense against predators
4. There is no leader
The herds don’t have a technical leader to help them move. They tend to split up into smaller groups which circles around the main herd by moving in different directions. This is because animals just follow their natural instinct by advancing forward together.
5. 500,000 Wildebeests calves are born
It’s truly a wonder that half a million wildebeests are born each year. Calving season occurs between January and February where the herds usually resides in Ndutu plains (southern part of Serengeti). The natural event is exciting as the mammals are happy welcoming their babies. It’s estimated that about 5000 calves are born daily.
6. No Migration no Serengeti
The Serengeti’s ecosystem mainly depend upon the migration for equal balance. It starts when the herds consume lots of grasses, as in turn tones of dung are produced. Beetles then make small dung balls and submerge them in the ground. As a result, when it rains the dung provides fertility to the ground for grass to grow again. The more the grass, the more nutrients to the wildebeests and food to predators( lions, leopards and crocodiles) who feed upon the herbivores.
7. A quarter of the mammal’s population dies
The 1000 km circle journey is of no joke. Not all of them make it back. A lot of them die along the way due to hunger, thirst and exhaustion which mainly applies to the calves. However, it’s not only about food but also due to predators (lions and crocodiles) who actually kill a good number of herds. It’s estimated about 250,000 wildebeests and 30,000 zebras get killed every year.
8. About 4.5 tones of grass are consumed
Feeding almost 1.5 million wildebeests requires large amount of food and nutrients. This is because their main reason for movement is food. It’s estimated that about 4500 kilograms of grass is consumed every day.
9. Wildebeest calves run 2 minutes after being born
The mammals are so unique of its own kind that the calves run very shortly after birth. This is purely natural and it’s important for them to do so that they can have strength and stamina before they start moving again.
10. Predators are always around to snatch away the mammals
There are many lions and leopards residing in the savanna plains. They are always around following the herds and waiting for the perfect chance to snatch away the tired and the weak . However, crocodiles are always ready waiting in awe at the river to capture them as they cross.
Migration movement takes place between the two countries(Tanzania and Kenya). However, the main activity occurs in Tanzania covering Ngorongoro conservation area, Serengeti national park, Grumeti reserve and Loliondo controlled area.