What comes to mind when you hear “The Great Migration”? As you may correctly guess, this is about movement from one part of Africa to the other. But also, as you may wrongly guess, it is not about human movement, rather it is about a million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra moving from the Serengeti in April, where they give birth to their young, in a circular grazing path determined by food.
The Serengeti is a vast ecosystem in east-central Africa spanning 12,000 square miles (30,000 square kilometres). Its name which is derived from the Masai language and means “endless plains.” This region is located in north Tanzania and extends to south western Kenya. What is so unique about the great migration?
1. It is an all year round movement in search of food.
2. The migration starts sometime in April, after arrival at the Serengeti in January.
3. The main characters of this event (the wildebeest and the zebras) have a symbiotic relationship, both eating different parts of the same plant, so there is no competition.
4. This symbiotic relationship does not only exist with regards to the food eaten, as observers say that the zebra are also helpful in remembering the course of the migration, while the wildebeest have an incredible sense of smell for water and can find a source almost every day of the migration.
5. The precise timing of the migration is entirely dependent upon the rainfall patterns each year.
6. It starts with the Serengeti’s wildebeest moving north, migrating to seek fresh grazing and water.
7. By June the wildebeest stops on the south side of the Grumeti River, due to its many which block or slow their migration north.
The wildebeest stop here in the Western Corridor and congregate, often building up to a high density before crossing the river.
8. Soon after crossing the river, the migration continues moving north and spreads out across a broad front during July, to August, arriving Kenya.
9. The migration becomes broader and by September the herds have spread out across the northern Serengeti, where the Mara River provides the migration with its most serious obstacle.
10. October sees the wildebeest herds migrating again with more convergence: heading south, through western Loliondo and the Serengeti National Park’s Lobo area, returning to the green shoots which follow the rains on the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti in November.