Top 10 Facts about the Great Wildebeest Migration

You are surrounded, enveloped by a sea of horns and snouts. It’s all hooves and dust and stampeding life everywhere you look, as far as the eye can see. The smell of dust and musty animals enter your nostrils. The scale is magnificent. Arresting. Nothing has prepared you to participate in such a seething mass of life moving in concert across a landscape.

You have heard about the Great Migration before. You have watched YouTube videos to fuel your curiosity. But nothing is like the real thing. Nothing compares to being on the ground, in Africa, bearing witness to the largest migration of mammals on the planet. You have made it.

To experience the Great Wildebeest Migration in East Africa is one of the most life-changing experiences available today. Why? There are 1.5 million reasons why. Each year 1.5 million wildebeest move through Northern Tanzania and Kenya, following fresh grass and water. To view more on the Great Migration, Click Here. Because the Great Migration is nothing short of jaw-dropping, here are ten of the most incredible facts about the phenomenon.

1. Largest Migration on Earth.

True story: the wildebeest migration in Northern Tanzania and Kenya is the single largest land migration of mammals on the planet. No other experience on Earth compares in scale to the 2 million ungulates that constitute this migration. It’s a seething mass of movement you won’t be able to find anywhere else. How crazy is that? (Source)

2. It’s Not Just Wildebeest.

Most imagine the Great Migration as 100% wildebeest. Think again. In the mix of over 1.2 million wildebeest, you need to toss in a half million gazelles and a 200,000 zebra. Why? They too chase fresh grass. Some experts also say it is a mutual relationship where zebra, for example, can keep extra eyes on predators to alert the wildebeest, and vice versa. Safety in numbers, right? (Source)

Zebra and Wildebeest Together During The Great Migration
Photo: https://tinyurl.com/y73fxgv7

3. The Great Migration? How about The Great Circle.

Before visiting Tanzania, I had this vision that migrating wildebeest traveled in a straight line, from one part of Africa to another. Wrong. The Great Migration is actually one giant 1,000-kilometer circle, without start or end. It constantly revolves clockwise. In January and February, new calves are born and numbers begin to swell. From there it’s an endless, circular pursuit of grass to graze and water to drink, all dictated by rain cycles. (Source)

4. There’s no Leader.

With over a million wildebeest and several hundred thousand other animals, you would think there’s some central leadership or hierarchy, but studies have shown that this phenomenon is leaderless. Herd mentality kicks in and forward movement happens almost instinctually. (Source)

Wildebeest crossing the Mara River during the annual migration, northern Serengeti NP, Tanzania

5. Half a Million Calves are Born.

That’s right. In late January and February, in the span of just a few weeks, an estimated 500,000 new little wildebeest lives burst onto the scene! This is one of the most exciting parts of the migration cycle. (Source)

6. Wildebeest Calves Run Two Minutes After Being Born.

In the span of a few weeks, an extra half-million newborn wildebeests are added to the African plains. If you are a predator these new calves are easy targets, but wildebeest calves learn to run within two minutes of being born. To compare, most human babies take 9-12 months just to walk.  (Source)

7. No Migration, No Serengeti.

The Great Migration greatly impacts the landscape of Tanzania and Kenya, but it’s vital to the region’s ecology. The cycle of grazing enables grass to grow and be consumed; the animals move on as the rain moves on. Without this natural balance of migration and munching, the Serengeti’s landscape wouldn’t look as it does. Thousands of wildebeest offer sustenance to other animals, too. Predators and scavenging birds all rely on the casualties of this migration for their own survival. (Source)

8. 4,500 tons of grass consumed. Every day.

With millions of hungry ungulates crossing hundreds of miles of grassland plains, this requires an unfathomable amount of nutrients. And this, after all, is what the wildebeest are after: grass. Their wish is to survive and, to do that, wildebeests must eat tons of it—over 4,000 tons per day! (Source)

9 – Wildebeests are Antelopes.

These stringy-haired beasts are also called “gnus,” and they actually fall within the genus of Antelope (even-toed ungulates) under the Bovidae family, which includes cattle and goats and sheep. What you’ll see in Tanzania are all mainly blue wildebeest, but there is a second species of wildebeest—the black wildebeest—which is found in southern parts of Africa. (Source)

10. Not Just a Single Herd.

The Great Migration is often conceived as a singular mass of millions of ungulates piling on top of each other, but actually the organization is far more complicated. They often split up and head in different directions, and though the general direction and migration circuit is predictable, the splintering of smaller herds makes the drama on the ground far more complex (and exciting!) (Source)


Getting You There?

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