Wildebeest Migration Cycle
Wildebeest Migration Cycle ( the great wildebeest migration) is described as the circular movement that wildebeests take across the East African plains of the savannah. Wildebeests were colored with the habit of staying and moving together in monumental groups. It was clearly seen on the pride land were they grazed together as a herd, making even the valley been named the wildebeest valley due to their extraordinary number. This unity was unity is observed even better during their annual migration, where a very huge group of wildebeests migrate together from one point to the other without leaving any of their fellows behind. Amongst all the land animal movements, the great wildebeests in the Serengeti national park are the world’s largest land animal movements.
Wildebeest is a common name given to the Gnu species from the Bovidae family which is just but an herbivorous group of mammals. The name wildebeest has its origin from Dutch which means wildebeests of wild cats, named mainly due to its hairy mane and horns. The appearance of the wildebeest is more or less resembling to a buffalo with an ox’s head and decorated with the horses’ mane. ‘Cow’ is a name shared by both our domestic milk-providing animal as well as a female wildebeest, meanwhile, it’s well and good if you call the male gnus bulls. Wildebeests are majorly classified into two groups, the black wildebeest and the blue wildebeest. Blue wildebeests have got somewhat a bigger size as compared to the black ones, whilst they grouped into around five classes
There is one reason which has triggered everyone’s’ thirst for researching more about this Bovidae family of animals, which is their massive migration throughout the year. Just imagine about one and half million wildebeests migrate each year. They are not alone in their journey since they have a few similar species which do give them an escort. These include the other animals such as zebras (which take the second rank in number after the wildebeests), gazelles, and a few impalas. Many new ones are born during the great wildebeest migration cycle, while some die as well on the way before reaching their destination. This makes this wildebeest migration cycle the largest overland migration, which occurs repeatedly each year.
This migration covers an area of about 26,000 square kilometers which is accompanied by a lot of amazing facts anyone would get astonished about hearing. Just imagine on the course of the mysterious journey of these wildebeests, around 400,000 calves are born usually in the early weeks of February. Mathematics tells us that from the mentioned fact, then almost 7500 calves are borne on every single day on the plains of Serengeti national park were birthing takes place, on the course of this birthing period. For a newly born gnu, it takes only between three to seven minutes before it starts walking on its own. However, animals are just trivial rays of light caught on earth for a short timeframe to lighting up our days, and eventually, they get their crown and turn to their eternal life. It’s the same for wildebeests, whereas almost 2500 wildebeest die on each single wildebeest migration cycle. The major reasons for the deaths of these wildebeests includes attacks from hungry predators like the lions and crocodiles, or it might be from starving when they encounter drought.
The wildebeest migration cycle begins in early December (or sometimes as early as late November), where the wildebeests start migrating majorly towards Serengeti national park, while some cover the southern and eastern parts of Soronea, areas around Ndutu and the northern part the Ngorongoro conservation area. This inaugural migration commences right after the termination of early October rains, and it is mainly to enjoy themselves with the fresh green grass on the plains of Serengeti. After reaching these plains they enjoy the nutritious grass from January through March. It is in this period where birthing takes place. Due to the all-time assurance of food and favorable environmental conditions, most calves are born in February something which makes them spread across the plains as the result of an increase in number.
As April approaches, when the newly born calves have acquired enough energy and adaptations to the environment, the migration starts again heading towards the north. This is the part of the cycle where other animals such as the zebras and the gazelles join the migration. This time round they migrate to search for fresh grazing and water supply that is better off the previous one which will already be scared. By June most of the wildebeests will be nowhere far from the Grumeti River. This is the most favorable place for this time due to the availability of water on the river and the assurance of green pasture from the forests surrounding the Grumeti river. However, it is very dangerous due to the large starving crocodiles situated in the river standby to convert any thirsty wildebeest coming for water into a delicious dinner. Here is where most deaths due to predators begin which prevent all beasts and zebras to successfully cross the river.
In the early days of July, scarcity of water on the Grumeti and pasture on the neighboring areas will be observed. This pushes the wildebeests and their associating animals to herd towards Maasai Mara Game Reserve. This time round they split into smaller groups that take their route through the heart of Serengeti national park and the routes heading towards the northern part of Serengeti, whilst the rest spread over to the Grumeti reserve. One great challenge on this route is crossing the Mara river, which has proven to be a great obstacle for them. Much loss of life amongst the animals happens at this stage of the cycle due to the state of a dilemma caused by the panic of crossing the river during its overflow alongside with the starving predator animals waiting for the wildebeests as their meals. This great panic and confusion of the wildebeest on the Mara River offer a very interesting scene, some days they might cross the river and be seen crossing back on the next day as a result of confusion and panic. It is in this very same route where hunger and famine greatly reduce the number of the huge migrating herds. This contributes much to the deaths of the wildebeests on the course of their annual migration cycle.
Around October, all wildebeests in the migrating herd will now be taking the same route merging together the minor herds formed while migrating from Grumeti. They will all be heading toward the south, making their way through Longido (specifically the western part of Longido). The movement is focused on locating potential areas with enough grass for them to enjoy after the hush moments of hunger and predation. It should be remembered that the weather is starting to have small rainfalls, something which makes the herd of wildebeests make their way towards the southern part of Serengeti national park. The wildebeest migration cycle is now approaching its initial starting point, and this shows that it has approached its halting point. Once they are settled on the southern part, they will wait until the short rainfall seasons terminates, and starts their cycle again. This will be late November or early December, and it is the very right time for them to make their way toward the green pastures on the Serengeti plains hence the second cycle of migration starts automatically. In addition to that, there will also be a number of hungry lions eagerly waiting for the wildebeests in the grazing plains of Serengeti plains, something which drastically reduces that number of the wildebeests.
On fact file today we have an astonishing fact about this largest overland migration in the whole globe. We saw the wildebeests moving towards specific routes, and repeats the same cycles every year but no wonder they have leaders nor the mechanism to overcome various obstacles they encounter on their way. Thanks to the wildlife researchers who spent their time in observing and documenting these for the sake of many like us. It is believed that due to the repetition of the same cycle of migrations for thousands of years, the wildebeests developed an intelligence mechanism of systematically identifying, exploring and overcoming all the obstacles encountered on their way as a single group rather than in individual bases. This intelligence mechanism is known as swarm intelligence, which plays the biggest role in making this turbulent migration movement even more harmonized and with the same cycling pattern ever since its origin.