The clown of the plains
The term "clown of the plains" in
reference to wildebeest can be attributed to its funny behavior
shaped by inherent characteristics of the animal. It is a dustbin of
body parts of the remnants of creation. A closer look reveals
at the forequarters gives the impression of one looking at an
ox-horse. The head with curved horns tell us its an ox with a
main of the horse, while the menacing look gives it some
characteristics of a buffalo. The neck and the shoulders have
tiger like stripes while the tail belongs to the horse. To complete
the picture is the gait and the characteristic confusion gives an
impression of animal that is likely to topple over any time.
synchronize their estrous thus giving birth at the same time. Mating
takes place between May and June in Masai Mara while calving takes
place between February and March in Southern or central Serengeti.
The mating season is characterized by a period of heightened sexual
period of the males called the rut. At this time males
establish temporary territory and mates with estrus females
venturing into them. 90% of calving takes place in first two
weeks of February. Simultaneous calving increases the chances of
survival of the foals. Young ones born out of calving period
are not likely to survive.
wildebeest migration is not about wildebeests migrating per se but
rather its influence on the movement patterns of the other animals
including human beings. The migration comprise of the never
ending milling of over 2.5 million wild animals composed of a about
1.7 million wildebeests, and 800,000 common Zebras and gazelle,
followed closely by their predators-lions, hyenas, leopards,
jackals. Hovering in the skies are thousands of
vultures, the super predators. Patient in nature, they survey the
migrating herds descending on the dead carcasses reducing them to
skeletons in a matter of seconds. The hazardous crossing of
crocodile invested Mara and Grumeti rivers is magical wonder of
nature attracting thousands of human beings. This survival of
the fittest spectacle has been described at the "seventh wonder
of the modern world". Strategic sighting of the migrating
herds tend to influence the setting up of tourism facilities.
Why they migrate.
Migration is influenced by various factors. Wildebeest have a
very selective diet. They are attracted by lush green grass
hence they have keep on the move following the rain patterns.
In addition wildebeest are known to congregate in plains with
grasses rich in nitrogen and phosphorous. Luck or availability
of these two minerals will influence where they will go. The
herd mentality is an anti predation behaviour. Safety in
numbers come into play. This phenomenon of acting in herds or swarms
has been described as "swarm intelligence", ganging up to overcome
an obstacle as one. This comes into play especially when
crossing turbulent rivers. In a group, they will probably
succeed in slowing down the turbulent and hence cross. In a group,
they can discourage a predator from attacking. Also running in
large groups makes it very difficult for a predator to focus on a
specific prey. Tradition has been advanced as another factor
influencing migration. That it's normal or the nature of the
wildebeest is to migrate.
the Wildebeest? - Migration Cycle:-
migration is mostly influenced by rainfall patterns. Thus no one can
predict with precision where the migrating herds will be at a
definite time. However just as in whether, a prolonged study
migrating cycles has produced some good guess as regards general
movements of migrating herds and some definite facts.
migration follows a clockwise direction dictated by the rain
patterns in the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem. The Migration has
been going on for as long as our ancestors can remember and where it
started is debatable. If we take the calving period as the
beginning of migration then we can say that migration starts in
plains of Eastern Serengeti around March.
December to April 2013
The herds spread
out over wide area covering Plains of Eastern Serengeti stretching
all the way to the Northern and Western plains of Ngorongoro
conservation area; and Masawa Game Sanctuary. January marks the
beginning of calving season. Calving continues from
January to March with bulk of the calves born in mid February.
During this period the plains of Seronera all the way to Western
Ngorongoro are teaming with vast herds of wildebeest (about 1.7M)
with their calves. It is the feasting time of predators as
they take advantage of the weak and venerable foals. The
wildebeest are always on the move and not even calving will disturb
this rhythm. Upon delivery, within minutes, they young calf
can stand and walk with the herd. In a few days, it can outrun
any predator. The best places to stay at this time are Kusini
Camp and Ndutu Lodge.
May To July 2013
May marks the end
of long rains in Eastern Serengeti and Northern Ngorongoro.
Meanwhile the calves have matured and it is migration time.
The scattered herds gather into long columns of up to 20 miles and
the march westwards begins. The migrating herds cross central
Serengeti into the Ngurumet (popularly called the western
corridor), cross the Ngurumet river into western and northern plains
of Serengeti. By the end of June, the rains in western
and northern Serengeti have subsided. At this time, heavy rain
is falling in the Mau hills and the crocodile infested Mara river is
heavily flooded. But nothing will stand between the wildebeest
and the abundant succulent grass readily available in western Masai
Mara, not the floods nor the crocodiles. The wildebeest must
cross of else risk starvation. With lots of vocalization
wildebeest gather in herds along the banks of the Mara river.
Unmoved by the noise the crocodile patiently waits and guards their
territories against the intruding wildebeest. Any wildebeest
venturing into the river is met immediate hostility and retreats but
cannot go far due to the ever increasing multitudes of the
wildebeest. As time goes, the impatience grows and the
wildebeest in front can no longer withstand the push from behind.
They is no turning back. They have to take a plunge. As if to
confuse the crocodiles, they jump into the river in mobs. The
lucky ones wade across into the land of plenty. The unlucky
ones drown, others are killed or maimed by the crocodiles . By
the end of the cross, the banks of mara river are lined with
carcasses of the dead. It is survival of the fittest and those
maimed will not survive the predators of Masai Mara. route
from Masai to Serengeti and Ngorongoro.
August and September 2013
The arrival in
Masai Mara coincides with the mating season. The bulls
establish temporally territories and mate with the females crossing
into them. The herds settle in Masai Mara moving from
the Western side to the Eastern boundaries. By October the
succulent grass in Mara is finished and the migrating herds heads
for Serengeti where curving will take place and the entire cycle
starts all over again.
A Safari Land cruiser with certified guide. A guide is
essential if you are not familiar with animal behavior.
In some situations having a guide makes the difference
Accommodation In Maasai (Masai) Mara National Reserve:
Maasai Mara has the largest number of lodges and tented camps in any
park of East Africa.
Lodges in Maasai (Masai) Mara
Tented Camps and Camping in Maasai (Masai) Mara
These luxury tented camps in Mara offer highest degree of comfort.
Mara Sarova Camp - Sarova Hotels
Kichwa Tembo Tented
Mara Explorer - Heritage Hotels
Fig Tree Camp- Mada Hotels
Olonana Tented Camp-Sanctuary Lodges & Hotels
Mara Intrepids -Heritage group of Hotels
Mara Safari Club- Fairmont Hotels
Governor's Camps -Governor's Hotels & Lodges
Siana Springs - Heritage Hotels
Oseur Tented Camp.