Wildebeest Migration Update

Jono Buffey All Authors, Jono 6 Comments

During my current stay in Kenya, I have been discussing this natural phenomenon with various learned people – a combination of rangers that work in the reserve and guides that have spent many years working in the region.

Recently there have been reports that suggest the wildebeest have turned back towards the Mara and have seemingly abandoned their long migration to the Southern Serengeti where they traditionally drop some 500 000 calves in February/March. Our contacts in the Masai Mara have reported that several hundred thousand wildebeest are crossing the Sand River back towards the Mara. This is unusual in itself as, at this stage, they should be far further south into the Serengeti heading towards the fertile Ndutu plains to give birth.

Andrew Beck 500PX-96

After all , it is mid December! Since this has happened, I have had several people contact me concerned that their Migration Safari experience in August will be negatively effected by the unusual chain of event.

Yes, it is unusual – but not a first.

In 1993 , the wildebeest actually stayed in the Mara for an entire year and I am certain that over the centuries there have been similar instances wherein the very same process has occurred.

Why? Well it is fairly simple – the wildebeest follow the rain as this will give rise to quality grazing that provides the sustenance to keep them going. Normally the long rains exist in Tanzania during October through to December, with sporadic rainfall occurring in Kenya. The Serengeti, situated in Tanzania, is currently experiencing a drought and, in Kenya, the Masai Mara is having some unseasonal heavy rains. This has resulted in little or no grass further south and some exceptional grazing in the Mara and the wildebeest have turned back to take advantage of this occurrence.

The quality of the grasses also plays a significant part. The Masai Mara is dominated by Red Oat grass which is arguably the most nutritious grass available. The Serengeti does have pockets of this grass, but nowhere near to the extent that it exists further North in the Masai Mara.

The long rains in Kenya, normally start in March through to May so, if the normal rainfall patterns eventuate, there will be sufficient grass in the Mara to sustain the some 1 500 000 wildebeest and 400 000 zebra that feed on this resource.

Simple as that.

Masai Mara Great Migration Trip Report Week 2-5

This, however, is still a natural process so, by its definition, things can change. The popular opinion is that there is a good chance that the events of 1993 will repeat itself and the Wildebeest will stay here, calve and cross the Mara river many times.

The traditional “ Migration period “ – July through to October – will NOT be effected. In fact , this should only add to the intensity of the spectacle!

Should the Wildebeest drop their young in the Masai Mara in February, I for one, will be there to witness it and I would love to have you join me!

Jono Buffey

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Comments 6

  1. Charlie Dunn

    Hi there,

    So you mentioned that there is a good chance the traditional migration period (July through October) will not be affected and may even be intensified by this unusual pattern of behavior, does this apply to just the Mara River crossings in Kenya (Masai Mara) or does it also include the crossings in the northern Serengeti/Lamai Triangle area of Tanzania? I am planning on being in the northern Serengeti in August next year and would love to hear your insights.


    1. Andrew Beck

      HI Charlie

      I would imagine that the only way this may impact on the traditional migration route should some of the herds remain in the Masai Mara, would be from a numbers perspective.

      It is not clear exactly how many wildebeest are currently in the Mara but even if a couple of hundred thousand remain there until July/August there would still be in excess of 1 million animals following the traditional route.

      I am sure that you will still have an incredible safari experience!

    1. Gerry

      Will most definitely do that Carol! Hope you have settled back home after Tuli. Look forwrd to see more of your images from the trip when you get a chance to work through them! 🙂

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