Wildebeest Behavior and Migration Update

Written by Thomson Safaris
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Thomson Safaris Guide, Ojukwu

Thomson Safaris’ guide, Ojukwu, just returned from the Serengeti where he spotted the first migratory group of wildebeests at the Mara River. The rest of the herds were spotted between the Serengeti’s western corridor and the Mara. Although wildebeest behavior follows similar patterns each year, predicting their precise location is not an exact science, which can vary day-by-day.

When you think of the Great Migration, dramatic images of wildebeest avoiding hungry crocs as they make their way across the river may come to mind. However, these antelopes partake in another exciting annual event, which is happening right now in the Serengeti. From around mid-June to early July, about 250,000 males compete for 750,000 females in the annual wildebeest mating ritual called the rut.

Dr. Richard Estes, one of the world’s authorities on wildebeest in East Africa, told Thomson Safaris, “the noise made by the bulls is probably the most amazing thing,” Estes said of the rut. “You don’t actually see them mating all that often, but the bulls are running around, butting their heads together and expending enormous amounts of energy to round up females and keep them together. I’ve seen bulls so intent on rounding up and defending a herd that they completely overlook the presence of estrus females. That defeats the whole point of the exercise.” *

Eight months after the rut, between January and March, the females will calve. The three-week calving season, during which ninety percent of wildebeest babies are born, creates an unforgettable spectacle on the Serengeti plains.

* Excerpt of interview with Dr. Richard Estes from a 2002 issue of the Thomson Safaris Newsletter.