‘The greatest wildlife spectacle’
The great migration of wildebeests and zebra on the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem is a natural phenomenon that involves a mass movement of upto two million animals from Serengeti in Tanzania into Kenya. This annual event which is undoubtedly one of the last great animal spectacles
on earth is slowly facing uncertainty, due a couple of factors; the global warming which has resulted in climate change is leading to a confusion in the traditional migratory circle coupled with the change in land use.
The migration got a different status recently as a result of the official declaration of the great wildebeests migration as one of the Seven
Wonders of the World. The new ‘Seventh Wonder’ recognition of the great migration is now a boost to tourism in the region. A higher percentage of the migratory animals come from the Serengeti plains of Tanzania. Only about 10% of the population of these migratory animals lives in Kenya; these are the Aitong and Loita populations. The rest are from the Serengeti. There are about 2 million animals participating in the great migration with wildebeests alone being about 1.5 million, 200,000 zebras, 0.5 million gazelles, about 60,000 Topi, 12,000 elands, thousands of vultures and a myriad of flies following and breeding among them.
The Mara and south Serengeti initially had different rain patterns which are believed to have been the main trigger of this whole migration. Southern Serengeti traditionally receives rain in March-April and October whereas the Mara is April-May and August. These differences have been the main driving factor of the migration. The other factor which is now considered a cause in the dwindling of the numbers of these
animals is the change in the land use in areas bordering the two game reserves, and which initially formed part of the game dispersal areas. These two factors have seen the population of the animals drop over the last 25 years. Proper policies must be drawn by the governments of the two countries to address the land use change and illegal hunting of these animals if we have to keep this event going on into the future.
The Kenyan resident herds of wildebeests comprising of the Aitong and Loita population on the other hand are about 100,000 animals – Wildebeests and zebras dominating. This number used to be higher, but the increase in human population in the game dispersal areas together with the change in the land use has led to a decrease in the number of wildebeest and zebras that formed this resident migratory herd.
The movement of this small migratory herd from the Aitong and Loita plains into the Mara, usually corresponds with the arrival of the main migration from the Serengeti. The two herds converge mostly on the south Mara triangle around mid to late July or early August.
You can view the migration patterns within Masai Mara game reserve for the last 7 years on ATTA blog which I have been submitting at http://www.atta.co.uk/heritage
Current location of teh migrating herds -December 2011