The Great Wildebeest Migration: All You Need to Know

Great Wildebeest Migration

The Great Wildebeest Migration is one of the most amazing natural phenomena on earth. 

It involves over 1.5 million wildebeests, 400,000 Thomson’s gazelles, and 200,000 zebras moving in a clockwise direction around the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania and Kenya.

This journey takes them from the dry southern plains to more lush pastures up north and then back again as they follow the rains. The migration covers an incredible distance of some 3000km each year!

What is a Wildebeest (Gnu)?

Great Wildebeest Migration

The wildebeest is a large, hoofed mammal that is a member of the antelope family. 

Wildebeests are found in Africa and they are known for their annual migration. 

During the migration, millions of wildebeests travel across the Serengeti Plains in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. 

Wildebeests are preyed on by lions, hyenas, and other predators.

What is the Great Migration?

 Great Wildebeest Migration

Each year, millions of wildebeests and other animals migrate across the Serengeti in Africa. 

The migration is one of the largest and most impressive animal migrations in the world. 

Wildebeests start their journey in the rainy season when they travel from the northern hills to the southern plains. 

They cross rivers and dodge predators on their way. In the dry season, they head back to the north, where they give birth to their young.

Why Do They Migrate?

The primary reason for this mass movement is food – or lack thereof! 

The animals migrate in search of green grass which grows after rainfall so that they can graze and stay healthy. 

Without enough food, these animals would soon perish so their survival depends on being able to access fresh grazing grounds when they need it most i.e during times of drought (which are becoming increasingly common due to climate change).

Other reasons for migrating include avoiding predators, seeking out mates, and giving birth in more favorable conditions. For example, many Wildebeest calves are born during the wet season when there is plenty of food around which gives them a better chance of survival.

How Do They Migrate?

How Do They Migrate?

The Great Wildebeest Migration is led by the animals’ natural instincts. 

It starts when the first rains fall in southern Serengeti (usually late October/early November) and signals to the herds that it is time to move northwards. 

The journey takes them through different ecosystems which provide varying levels of food and water resources along the way so they need to be constantly on the lookout for places where conditions are just right. 

Once they reach greener pastures, usually around July, they will then start their return journey south as drought sets in once again.

During their annual migration, these animals face many challenges including crossing rivers full of crocodiles, competing with other grazing animals for limited resources, and avoiding predators such as lions or cheetahs who see them as an easy meal! 

Despite all of these dangers huge numbers of wildebeests successfully make this amazing journey each year – a true testament to nature’s wonder.

Where Does The Great Migration Take Place?

The Great Wildebeest Migration takes place in the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania and Kenya. This region is home to an incredible variety of wildlife including lions, elephants, cheetahs, and crocodiles – all of which prey on the migrating animals!

What Animals Participate in the Great Migration?

The Great Wildebeest Migration involves three main herds of animals: wildebeests, Thomson’s gazelles, and zebras. 

These are joined by a number of other species including elands, impalas, Topis, and Grants Gazelles but the vast majority are wildebeests.

When Does The Great Migration Happen?

When Does The Great Migration Happen?

The timing of the migration is determined by rainfall patterns which vary from year to year. In general, the animals migrate northwards in search of fresh grazing grounds between late March/early April through to June/July. 

They then return south again between October/November all the way back down to December when they reach their calving grounds on the southern plains around Lake Ndutu (near Serengeti National Park) or Lake Magadi (further south in Kenya).

What’s the Best Time to See It?

The Great Wildebeest Migration is a year-round event but the best time to see it depends on what you want to witness. 

If you want to see the herds crossing rivers full of hungry crocodiles then late July/August is your best bet as this is when they make their way back south across the Mara River from Kenya into Tanzania. 

However, if you would prefer to see baby wildebeests being born then February through April (the wet season) is probably a better time for you. 

No matter when you choose to go through, witnessing this natural wonder is sure to be an unforgettable experience!

How Do Animals Participate in The Great Migration?

How Do Animals Participate in The Great Migration?

The Great Wildebeest Migration is essentially one big circle that the animals travel each year. It starts off in Tanzania’s southern Serengeti plains where the wildebeests give birth to their young (known as calves).

After a few months of grazing on the nutrient-rich grasses here, they then head north into Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve – following rainfall patterns. 

Here they remain until October/November time when they start moving back south again in readiness for calving season once more next year!

Whilst many animals do make this entire journey each year, some only go part way or may not migrate at all depending on conditions and other factors such as predators or drought.

For example, during times of severe drought, some zebras have been known to stay put rather than risk making an arduous journey only to find there is still no food at the end!

What Are The Risks of Migrating?

The journey is not without its risks and many animals perish along the way. Droughts, floods, disease, and predators all pose a threat to these migrating herds. It is estimated that up to 250,000 wildebeests alone die each year!

Despite these risks, the great Wildebeest Migration is one of the most amazing natural phenomena on earth and well worth seeing if you ever get the chance.

What Happens at the End of the Journey?

The journey is not without its dangers and many animals do not make it to the end. 

And the most common cause of death during the migration is dehydration which can occur when animals get caught up in large herds and are unable to access water. 

Other risks include getting trampled, being attacked by predators, or contracting diseases from sick animals along the way.

Those that do manage to complete the journey often return to their starting point – ready to begin again next year!

Predators and The Great Wildebeest Migration

One of the most impressive aspects of the great Wildebeest Migration is how well organized it appears to be. 

The animals move in a very tight herd which makes them difficult for predators to pick off individuals – there are simply too many for even the biggest and hungriest lions (or other predators) to take down!

In fact, research has shown that migrating herds tend to have lower mortality rates than those who stay put all year round. So not only does migration help these animals find food during times of drought, but it also protects them from becoming an easy meal for their enemies!

Human Impact on The Great Wildebeest Migration

Sadly, the great Wildebeest Migration is under threat from human activity. This includes everything from illegal hunting to habitat loss and even climate change. For example, as more and more people move into areas where the animals migrate they are coming into contact with them (and their diseases) which can lead to serious health problems for both humans and wildlife alike.

What’s more, as the world gets warmer and drier (due to climate change) it is becoming harder for these animals to find food and water. This means that they are often forced into contact with humans which can lead to conflict (and sometimes even death).

Despite all of these threats, the great Wildebeest Migration continues on its journey each year – a reminder of the incredible resilience of nature. Let’s hope that this amazing natural phenomenon can be protected so that future generations can enjoy it too!

What Impact Does Climate Change Have on the Migration?

Climate change is having a huge impact on the Great Wildebeest Migration. As mentioned earlier, this natural phenomenon depends on rainfall in order to trigger the fresh growth of grasses on which the animals graze on. However, due to climate change, there has been an increase in droughts and erratic rain patterns across East Africa in recent years. This has made it more difficult for animals to find food and many have died as a result.

It is feared that if current trends continue then the migration may eventually come to an end altogether – spelling disaster not just for these iconic animals but also for the entire Serengeti ecosystem.

What Impact Does the Migration Have on the Ecosystem?

The Great Wildebeest Migration is an important part of the Serengeti ecosystem. 

As these animals move around they graze on grasses and other vegetation, which helps to keep growth in check. This grazing also keeps fire risk low as dead grass is less likely to build up and ignite. 

The migration also plays a role in dispersing seeds and nutrients (in dung) which help to maintain healthy plants and soils across different areas of the landscape.

In short, migration is vital for sustaining this iconic ecosystem and the myriad of animals that depend on it for their survival.

Final Thoughts

The great Wildebeest migration is an awe-inspiring sight to behold. 

It is something that should not be missed if you are ever in East Africa during the right time of year. 

If you are unable to make the trip to Africa, there are several documentaries and articles that can give you a glimpse into this incredible migration.


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