Monday, 28 January 2013

Wildebeest Migration in Kenya

wildebeest masai mara

Gnu or Wildebeest Scientific Name: Connochaetes taurinus is a grazer which weighs about 500 pounds and has a gestation period of 8 months .Several races of wildebeest (also called gnu) exist. The species that forms the large herds of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem of Tanzania and Kenya is known as the western white-bearded wildebeest (C. t. mearnsi). The brindled or blue race occurs south of the Zambezi River. The eastern white-bearded race inhabits Kenya and Tanzania east of Gregory Rift.
The head of the wildebeest is large and box-like and both males and females have curving horns. The front end of the body is heavily built, the hindquarters slender and the legs spindly. The coat is gray and has a black mane and a beard which may be black or white. Wildebeests are continually on the move as they seek favorable supplies of grass and water.
The famous Serengeti population of wildebeest is a very large nomadic group. These animals make a migratory circle of 500 to 1,000 miles each year, beginning right after the calving season in January and February on the south-eastern Serengeti plains, moving west toward Lake Victoria, then turning north into the Masai Mara. They are relentless in their advance and many are injured, lost (especially calves) or killed. By the end of the dry season, the wildebeest have almost exhausted the grazing lands and return south to the Serengeti plains as the rains begin.Wildebeest females give birth to a single calf in the middle of the herd, not seeking a secluded place, as do many antelopes. Amazingly, about 80 percent of the females calve within the same 2- to 3-week period, creating a glut for predators and thus enabling more calves to survive the crucial first few weeks. A calf can stand and run within minutes of birth. It immediately begins to follow its mother and stays close to her to avoid getting lost or preyed upon. Within days, it can run fast enough to keep up with the adult herd.
masai mara
A calf eats its first grass at about 10 days, although it is still suckled for at least 6 months. Even after weaning, many remain with the mother until the next year's calf is born. At that time the young males are driven away, but the females often remain in the same groups as their mothers. Their biggest predators are lions, cheetahs, leopards, hunting dogs, hyena, and crocodile among other cats.

JBA-Masai mara  safaris