Increasing human activities and other anthropogenic factors on the Kenyan side of the Serengeti eco-system may cause the annual migration of Wildebeests to stop going into Kenya’s Maasai-Mara in future, according to Serengeti-based conservationist and ecologist.
This follows this year’s sudden change in the ungulates’ migratory patterns where instead of spending two months (eight weeks) in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, the wild animals stayed there for only three weeks before rushing back to Tanzania.
Tourism Conservator at Serengeti National Park, Seth Mihayo, warned that, the Maasai Mara Reserve of Kenya, which is the recipient of the annual Wildebeests Migration from Tanzania, is currently experiencing mushrooming of hotels, human activities such as cattle grazing and the depletion of the natural green cover.
“Wildebeests usually travel in groups but a single car or a group of people is enough to disrupt the entire herd causing them to divert their course of movement. You can now imagine the effect of massive buildings, batteries of vehicles and domestic animals crossing their paths,” Mihayo noted.
Serengeti-based Ecologist, Dr James Wakibara explained that until now no scientist or researcher has been able to find out what exactly causes the over 1.5 million wildebeests, nearly 300,000 zebras, buffalos and a number of gazelles that form the annual mass movements of herbivores to migrate from Tanzania to Kenya.
“Citing food, water, rains or predators as possible driving forces have all been theories that were never proven and so is the sudden change in the number of days spent in Kenya, that also needs thorough study and extensive investigation,” stated Dr Wakibara.
However the ecologist admits that it was not normal for the ungulates to suddenly cut short their stay in Kenya and rush back home.
Tanzania National Parks’ Public Relations Manager , Paschal Shelutete pointed out that in the past, the annual migration during its southward movement used to go to as far as Maswa game Reserve in Meatu District, Shinyanga Region, but that is no longer the case.
The renowned migrants cut short their south-bound trip and at the moment their journey ends at Ngorongoro Conservation Area and experts here believe that the journey to Maswa was ‘killed’ by increased human activities along the ungulates’ path.
Mustafa Akonaay is the executive secretary of Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), who believes that climate change has something to do with this sudden change of the ungulates’ immigration behavior.
“Since it has happened for the first time this year, we may have to wait until 2013 to see if the same pattern repeats then we as tour operators will change our programme calendars and fliers to inform the entire world that the Serengeti Migration times and pattern has changed,” said Akoonay.
The TATO official also admitted to have heard and even received concerns regarding the environment destructions on the Kenyan side of the Serengeti Eco-system which he also warned may affect future migrations.