The Great Wildebeest Migration is without a doubt one of the world’s most spectacular events and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Every year, a great number of travelers from all over the world descend on the plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti to witness this awe-inspiring natural wonder. Imagine a herd of over 2 million mammals traveling in unison across two countries in search of greener pastures and a safe place to give birth to their young. These mammals, which include wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle, face difficult terrain and often dangerous situations, resulting in the loss of life. It is, however, difficult not to admire the incredible journey that these animals embark on; the trials and tribulations they face, and the sheer determination to reach their destination. It is an experience not easily put into words but is without a doubt, unlike anything on this planet. Because the Great Migration is nothing short of jaw-dropping, here are some incredible facts to know before embarking on your safari of a lifetime!
1. The Wildebeest Cows All Give Birth at the Same Time.
Every year, between January and early March, approximately 400,000 wildebeest calves are born in the Serengeti’s southeastern plains. It is also a general calving season, as zebras and antelopes give birth during this time. For many, this is considered the best time to visit the Serengeti, as it’s exciting to see the newborn animals.
2. Young Calves are Able to Stand Minutes After Birth.
Wildebeest and zebra calves can quickly stand after birth, and soon thereafter can start running. In fact, wildebeest calves can walk on their own within minutes of being born. And within days they can keep up with the herd and even outrun a lioness! Zebra foals can also pretty much walk and even run after an hour.
3. Wildebeest Hooves Leave a Scent Trail for Others to Follow.
The Great Migration doesn’t consist of one, solid herd. Rather, there’s a main herd and satellite herds, all of which endlessly morph, splinter, and coalesce over time. New evidence suggests that the glands in the wildebeests’ hooves secrete pheromones and feces that stay on the ground. This allows their fellow wildebeests to follow their smell. And so the disparate herds can stay connected and link up. What’s truly amazing is that each wildebeest has a distinct grunt. These sounds aid them in finding each other, whether at night or when a mother tries to locate her foal.
4. At least 250 000 Animals Die as a Result of Migration.
The risks associated with the Great Migration cannot be overstated. Approximately 250,000 animals die while attempting to cross the Mara River in search of greener pastures. The Mara river crossing is one of the most dangerous events for a number of reasons, not least because of the hungry presence of Nile crocodiles, but also because of frequent stampedes as well as drowning of animals as a result of the miscalculation of water levels.
5. Wildebeests Rely on Zebras for their Survival.
While wildebeests are known to be picky grazers that only consume grass shoots, most zebras prefer to consume a wider variety of grasses, including taller grasses. As a result, wildebeests benefit symbiotically from zebras that mow down tall grasses, thus creating a conducive environment for wildebeest feeding.
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