Wildebeest from Serengeti denied entry into Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve

Investors in hospitality industry drove them back to Tanzania


A poster Tranquility News captured at the western gate of Serengeti National Park recently displays some of the products in offer at the park. PHOTO | JOE LIHUNDI

TUESDAY September 15, 2020

By Joe Lihundi

Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha, Tanzania

Wildebeest have for ages disrespected borders and citizenship rules to cross from Tanzania to Kenya and back to Tanzania, creating one of the spectacular wonders of the world.

But now the wildlife animals belonging to bovidae family along with antelopes are facing a challenge from investors in the tourism and travel industry in Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya.

A video clip, which went viral on social media platforms on Wednesday (September 9, 2020), shows workers of one of the investors in the game reserve chasing a herd of wildebeests back to Tanzania shortly after they have crossed Mara River.

Dr Hamis Kigwangala, the Tanzania’s Tourism Minister, condemned the campsite workers, who were pelting stones at the wildebeests, saying it was distressing to the wildlife animals.

Wildebeests struggle to cross Mara River in Serengeti National Park as invisible predators particularly crocodiles and rhinos waylay them. VIDEO | JOE LIHUNDI

The Minister blamed the Kenya’s rules and regulations governing game reserves for allowing campsites to be built in game reserves, particularly on the wildebeests migration route.

“I would like to inform you that allowing such investments in game reserves is not in our policy,” Dr Kigwangala said in his instagram post on Wednesday. He promised discussing with Kenyan authorities to resolve the mishap for the survival of the heritage the two countries share.

The Kenya’s Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Mr Najib Balala, was quoted by the media in the country as saying that he had already directed the Governor of Narok County in which the Maasai Mara Game Reserve falls to close the campsite built on the banks of the river.

Besides about 1.5 million wildebeests, the Great Serengeti Migration also comprises 300,000 zebra and 200,000 eland, Thompson gazelle and other wildlife animals and birds.

Workers of a campsite in Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya, drive wildebeest back to Tanzania shortly after the wildlife animals crossed Mara River in the reserve recently. VIDEO | ANONYMOUS

Each of the accompanying wildlife animals plays a key role in the wildebeests migration, while zebra eat long grass for the wildebeests to munch the shortest ones, birds flying in case of a danger give the wildebeests a signal that an enemy is at close range.

According to Ms Mrikinoy Kumerei, the Tanzania National Park (TANAPA) Conservation Officer dealing with ecology, insufficient pasture with essential minerals such as potassium and calcium triggers the migration.

The wildebeests’ journey begins in three groups south of the Serengeti National Park in January each year. One group moves towards north-west of the park, another towards central and the last one towards east of the park.

In August all three wildebeest groups meet along the banks of Mara River in the park where they face their hardest challenge of crossing the river which sees some of them drown and others killed by predators mostly crocodiles and hippos.

The state-owned Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation’s Safari Channel crew uses drones and other equipment for filming Mara River as wildebeests cross the trans-boundary river to continue with their migration from south of Serengeti National Park to Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. PHOTO | JOE LIHUNDI

The 395-kilometre-long trans-boundary river with the predators begins in Mau Forests in Kenya and snakes through the Serengeti National Park before it pours its water into Lake Victoria in Mara Region, Tanzania.

About 65 per cent of the river with 13,765-square-kilometre basin is in Kenya, while the remaining 35 per cent is in Tanzania. “And in Tanzania the Serengeti National Park boasts taking a lion’s share of the river whose water is used for drinking and irrigation in public areas in Mara Region,” Mr Seif Choma, the Tanapa conservation officer also dealing with ecology, said.

The wildebeest that survive the Mara River challenge continue trekking about 31 kilometres to the Tanzania’s northern border where they cross to the Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve in September to spend about one month before they start returning to Tanzania in October.

The wildebeests’ three-month journey back to southern Serengeti National Park gives room to between eight and nine-month expectant mothers to give birth in February.

Tourists (on the background) board a plane after sampling attractions, including the wildebeest migration, in Serengeti National Park. PHOTO | JOE LIHUNDI

The wildebeest prefer giving birth south of the park mainly because the area abounds with pasture and has sufficient space for them to guard their newborns against predators such as lions and hyenas.

Hyenas eat the carcass of a giraffe in Serengeti National Park. PHOTO | JOE LIHUNDI
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