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10 Interesting Facts About the Great Migration

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Abi
By Abi 15 April 2016

The Great Migration is one of the most spectacular wonders of the natural world! Every year, millions of herbivores move roughly clockwise throughout Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Maasai Mara, following the rains in search of green pastures and good water.

If you'd like a month-by-month overview of the Great Wildebeest Migration, check out this guide, which details where to stay and the best accommodation for your budget.

And if you'd like to talk to our Tanzania and Kenya experts for more information, you can give us a ring at +1 855 225 1155, or send our safari experts a message here.

Otherwise, here are some things you might not know about this incredible event:

1. The Great Migration is the largest overland migration in the world

The Great Migration is made up not only of 1.5 million wildebeest, but also 200,000 zebra, and smaller numbers of Grant’s gazelle, Thompson’s gazelle, eland, and impala.

2. Wildebeest calves are able to walk as soon as they are born

Half a million wildebeest calves are born each year in the Southern Serengeti at the start of the yearly migration cycle, between January and March. Most are born in mid-February when approximately 8,000 wildebeest are born every day for about three weeks. They are able to walk as soon as they are born, so they can keep up with the herds!

3. The Great Wildebeest Migration is the longest overland migration in the world

As well as the largest overland migration in the world, the Great Migration is also the longest. The herds travel a total of 500 miles (800km), or more, during each cycle.

4. Not all of the herd follow the same path

Wildebeest have no natural leader and therefore herds split up and head in different directions. The Great Migration and its progress are usually thought of as one mega-herd, surrounded by a number of smaller herds. Maps showing the path of the migration usually show the cyclical route of the mega-herd, but if you were to include the smaller herds then the whole migration can often cover half of the entire Serengeti!

5. Wildebeest seem to be more intelligent than they appear

While having the appearance of a confused frenzy, recent research has shown a herd of wildebeest possesses what is known as ‘swarm intelligence', where the animals systematically explore and overcome an obstacle as one.

6. Though migration companions, wildebeest and zebra don't eat the same thing

The migration occurs due to the fact that these animals are following the rains and seeking out the best grasses. And though zebra and wildebeest migrate together, they are able to graze in harmony because they each eat different parts of the same type of grass.

7. The Great Migration is a natural phenomenon that only started in the 1960s

Many believe that the Great Wildebeest Migration is the oldest in Africa, however, this natural phenomenon only began in the 1960's. Since then, years of conservation and monitoring have thankfully secured the future of the migration.

8. The Great Migration experiences the circle of life

The migration kills off around 250,000 wildebeest and 30,000 zebra every year. This is as a result of thirst, hunger, and exhaustion, as well as crushes and drownings in stampedes of nervous animals. However, the Great Migration is also followed by numerous carnivores that feed off of the wildebeest, including lion, hyena, African wild dog, cheetah, leopard and crocodile - a true circle of life. 

9. Where the wildebeest go, lions follow

There are more than 3,000 lions currently living in the Serengeti ecosystem… and following the migratory herds!

10. River crossings can be dangerous

The Nile crocodiles awaiting the herds in the Mara River are deadly predators. They drown their prey by clutching them in their strong jaws and pulling them below the water, twisting them to break off bite-size pieces! A crocodile can lunge more than half of its body length out of the water to grab a potential victim and can also use its tail as a secondary weapon.

And there you have 10 facts about the Great Wildebeest Migration. If you'd like more information, don't hesitate to contact a member of the team here. Otherwise, take a look below for more wildlife inspiration:

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