On the wing

Grumeti | May 2020

The arrival of the front runners from the Great Migration into the western corridor has brought with it excitement and energy, both at having the animals around us again, and the awe of so many animals together. Had people cast their eyes to the skies in recent months they may have noticed the movements of certain migratory birds heading north for the northern hemisphere’s summer; and with even closer observation they may have noticed large numbers of insects, often at very high altitudes.

There is another migration that has been taking place high above us in East Africa – millions of dragonflies that are flying thousands of miles from India to Africa in arguably the insect world’s longest migration, further than even the famous monarch butterfly migration from Mexico to Canada.

The 11 000 mile (approx. 18 000 km) Indian Ocean migration is taken on by dragonflies – mostly a species called globe skimmers or wandering glider (Pantala flavescens). These dragonflies breed in temporary rainwater pools and they therefore follow the rains, taking sequential advantage of the monsoon rains of India, the short rains of East Africa, the summer rains of southern Africa, then back north for the long rains in East Africa, and finally back to India for the next monsoon.

An individual does not complete the migration in its lifespan but can travel more than 3 730 miles (6 000 km) of the migration and each subsequent generation flies the next step.

It’s a wonderful thought to think that there is this global movement of animals that happens around us and that we can now look forward to keeping an eye out for them when they next pass over.