It’s that time of the year when tourists in Kenya are treated to the spectacular scene of the wildebeest migration to the Maasai Mara. The precise timing of the Wildebeest Migration is said to be quite unpredictable and varies annually, this year it is later than usual.
Sometime between June and August each year, the wildebeest congregate in the open plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania and prepare to cross the famous crocodile infested Mara River to the Kenyan Maasai Mara Triangle where they normally make their arrival as early as July and through to September. The wildebeest remain in the Mara between October and November and gradually begin migrating back towards the Serengeti Between December and January.
ENORMOUS BIRTH RATES
This year it’s believed that 1.4 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras and gazelles have already migrated into the Maasai Mara, and as reported in the Daily Nation, according to wildlife monitor Douglas ole Naisho, each year 250,000 wildebeest die from drowning, stampede, or attacks from predators that follow the Wildebeest Migration to prey on weaker targets.
The wildebeest calving season which takes place in the Serengeti between the months of January and Mid-March before their Migration begins, sustains the species numerous population and it’s estimated that they have more than 400,000 births a year which replenish the 250,000 deaths during the spectacular migration that has been dubbed the eighth wonder of the world.
THE MARA-SERENGETI CONFLICT
There have been conflicts between the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments over the Mara-Serengeti ecosystems as each party tries to lock out the other out of the lucrative economic spoils generated by the wildebeest migration. The Tanzanians complain that the wildebeest spend ten months in their country and only two in Kenya, yet the latter seems to benefit more from the popular migration of the species.
Perhaps that explains why a game drive that should be just a short drive from the Mara to the Serengeti, means a long trek through the Isebania-Sirare border point, following the closure of the Bologonja gate by the Tanzanians.
Grass fires from both the Mara triangle and 100‘s of acres of the larger parts of northern Tanzania (the wildebeest migratory routes) are said to have interfered with this year’s wildebeest migration.
Kenyans accuse the Tanzanians of setting fire acres of grass on the Serengeti plains in order to prevent the wild beasts from migrating into the Mara Game Reserve but as it appears, the Mara Triangle management is burning part of the Mara triangle as well.
Both the the Mara triangle management and Tanzanians apologized for the inconvenience caused by the smoke saying that the controlled fires are lit up annually for rangeland management, but this year was delayed due to rains
TOURISM LOSES OUT YET AGAIN?
If left unchecked this conflict could impede the wildebeest migration and both countries stand to loose judging from the recent drama that has left scores of tourists disappointed, and complaining that the delays are costing them more money as their stays are extended.
As we have said before, the tourism industry is a key player in the Kenyan economy, and it seems that both the two main areas of the coast and now the Mara are receiving bad press this year. It may well be just a combination of late rains and a late migration which are frustrating the tourists. The accusations of deliberate sabotage however may well resonate in the minds of tourists choosing holidays for next year.
Following the former threat posed by the Serengeti Highway plans a couple of years ago, one wonders if the respective ministries of tourism have ever read Aesops fable about ‘killing the goose that laid the golden egg’?