The annual wildebeest migration is one of the world’s most breathtaking spectacles but it also plays a vital ecological role. Head Guide at Singita Grumeti Reserves shares some insights into the progression of the migration across the plains of Singita Grumeti Reserves this year.
The Wildebeest Migration was declared the 7th new Wonder of the Natural World in June 2006 and it is well justified. This annual mass movement of over a million wildebeest has to be one of the most awe inspiring sights on earth. It is very possible that these animals have been making this astonishing trek for millions of years and if that is so then man must have been marveling over this for millennia.
There have been literally rank after rank of wildebeest filing onto the plains on a daily basis. From the 25th May we watched as the numbers swelled until it seemed there would be room for no more. Yet they continued to arrive. The herds of topi and zebra gave way before encroaching hordes; elephant left the low lying areas and headed for the hills.
They passed by Singita Sabora and spent a few days on the plains in and around the tented camp, consuming the new grass that had sprung up after the fire a few months ago.
From there they headed east, grazing and honking as they went. Thousands of them staked out areas around the Sasakwa airstrip and we spent many hours on the strip keeping it clear for arriving and departing aircraft.
With them came the scavengers, hyena walked unperturbed between them, and the wildebeest hardly gave them a glance.
Vultures soared overhead or dropped down onto carcasses and the wildebeest didn’t seem to care; it seemed that everything benefitted from their arrival.
There was literally nowhere on the property you could go without driving through thousands of wildebeest. It is an amazing experience that is impossible to describe: the constant movement of all the animals, the noise of their continual honking, the clash of horns as the bulls charged into one another, and calves and mothers that have become separated call to one another in an attempt to reunite.
The migration faces all challenges head on. Sometimes there is a bit of trepidation or hesitation by each animal when faced with a tricky river crossing or a wooded area but in order to survive they have to keep moving. Food and water are the main motivation and as much as wildebeest are responsible for consuming vast quantities of grass on a daily basis they are also a key component in the regeneration of the same grasses, and other grasses they don’t eat.
Herbivores can and do play a large role in grass successions. When the rains come through after the migration has moved on there will be a marked regeneration. The millions of hooves crush and trample the moribund material into the earth and their dung helps to fertilize it.