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Kenya

Wildebeest migration starts early due to weather changes, ecologists say

Herds have already been spotted in the western corridor/Grumeti reserves. By Saturday the herd was located crossing the Sand River heading towards the Maasai Mara/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 4 – The wildebeest migration kicked off earlier than usual this year with conservationists and ecologists pointing at change in weather patterns as the reason.

The wildebeest migration spectacle normally begins in mid-June and continues to September. But this year, the gnus started their long trek at the end of last month.

Head of Species Conservation and Management at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Shadrack Ngene said the last such occurrence happened six years ago when the wildebeests migrated in late May.

“Climate changes such as heavy rains in Tanzania as well as depletion of resources in one area are among the reasons we are having an early Wildebeest migration,’ said Ngene.

Herds have already been spotted in the western corridor/Grumeti reserves. By Saturday the herd was located crossing the Sand River heading towards the Maasai Mara where they are predicted to have already arrived.

The wildebeest migration, described as one of the seven modern wonders of the world, involves mainly wildebeests and zebras crossing to and from the Serengeti National Park in neighbouring Tanzania.

The gnus move from Tanzania to Kenya in mid-June for pasture and in September they move from Kenya to Tanzania to breed.

The gnus spend three months in the Maasai Mara and nine months in the Serengeti.

The movement attracts tourists from around the world. However the early migration has drawn mixed reactions from park inhabitants.

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“The early migration would have a minor effect on the tourism calendar,” noted Sam Munyi, a freelance tour guide. “We expect more tourists to reschedule their journeys for fear of missing the migration.”

Nearly 1,000 domestic tourists from Narok County took advantage of a waiver on the park fees for two days to access the Mara on June 1 and 2.

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