Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The wildebeest calves in Masai Mara

This year has seen the resident herds of wildebeests calving in the Mara. The birth of wildebeest calves is meant to happen en-masse as a way to counter predation. while this happened in the Mara over the last couple of weeks, the masses in south Serengeti (Ndutu area) are also giving birth. thousands of calves are born with a period of 2 weeks. about 80% of the female population (±400,000) will give birth around that period. this ensures that the predators are overcome by the number of prey and that will see many young ones live through to adulthood. what we are witnessing in the Mara currently is not different form that witnessed in South Serengeti. It has really been a treat for those who have never been down south to witness the mass births.
what is unique about the Mara situation this year is that we had so many young born than previous records.  Over the last 15yrs in the Mara, this is the second time we have witnessed such birth. The  local migration, commonly referred to as the Loita migration, used to go to the Loita plains east of the Mara. however, over the past few years, a change in the land use in the Loita area has seen the original group ranches sub-divided into individual parcel. what followed were fences coming up as families and individuals erect fenced off their own parcels. this has now prevented the wildebeest from accessing their traditional calving ground, hence their high concentration in the reserve at the moment. The neighbouring conservancies has brought a relieve to these wildebeests, as they provide a safe ground after the loss of the Loita plains.

Whereas the earlier birth records in the Mara was attributed to drought, which made the wildebeests, including some from Serengeti to overstay, the current is due to the land use change and partly due to a dry spell currently experienced in the region. The Mara predators who would otherwise be on lean feeding at the moment, are now in a season of 'surprise' plenty. The images below captured by my colleague Sammy tells it all.

Photo courtesy of Sammy Kaleku

Photo courtesy of Sammy Kaleku

Mother and young running away from the predators in Ndutu area

Mother and calve in Ndutu area

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