11 thoughts on “Kenya’s wildebeest migration, and the six other new Wonders of the World

  1. Tanzania: Conservation – Maasai Mara Serengeti

    Arusha Times (Arusha)

    EDITORIAL
    November 26, 2006
    Posted to the web November 28, 2006

    The Daily Nation of the 18th November splashed its headline with “Kenya’s Maasai Mara named among the most spectacular place on the planet” and later in the article in smaller print “The Maasai Mara and Serengeti and the Wildebeest migration were selected as one of the new wonders” etc. So The American Broadcasting Corporation and a group of panelists, hosted by our neighbours, told the world what we have known all along. The annual migration is a “Wonder of the World.”

    In last week’s article we questioned the future of the annual migration. However lest we forget, in the Daily Nation Nation that trumpeted the 7th. Wonder there was also an article on the drying up of Lake Nakuru and the disappearance of the Flamingo. These beautiful birds are the most famous and most dramatic attraction of this park. The drying up of the lake is attributed to the destruction of the Mau forest and the drying up of once perennial streams and rivers.

    Kenya & Nairobi has also been in the news as the host of the UN sponsored Climate Change Conference .Delegates from all over the world have no doubt engaged in a lot of “bla bla” and there has been a ritual of condemnation of the developed world for its profligate lifestyle and especially for one President Bush for not signing The Kyoto agreement. The delegates will have enjoyed the comforts of the best Nairobi hotels and will have been delivered to their meetings in gas guzzling cars through Nairobi’s early morning rush hour and smog. They will no doubt have been stuck in traffic jams behind “Matatus and trucks and buses belching out black smoke. Such is Western style progress.

    So what has this to do with conservation Tanzania and the Serengeti?

    America we are told has 5% of the World population but produces 25% of the “Green House gasses that are blamed for our worrying world climate change. The USA has so far refused to sign the Kyoto agreement that is aimed at reducing the emission of Carbon dioxide and other industrial gasses that are responsible for an acceleration of global warming. However, while bashing Bush may be fun, the Green House gasses produced by China and India Brazil and the emerging economic “Tigers” of the Far East will very soon eclipse the damage done by Bush and his ilk. So who will we bash after Bush? China perhaps? Africa’s new found friend and might be difficult to bash

    However what about reality? Kenyan Tourism is set to earn $1 billion annually and Tanzania has the potential to earn the same if not more. However who is going to kill the “Golden goose that lays the golden eggs”? Will it be through the reckless and wanton destruction of the Mau forest. Will it be more “wageni” arrivals than there are Wildebeest, or will it be Global warming? Probably the goose will be killed by a triple whammy of our own efforts at environmental destruction as we cut down our precious remaining forest, over development of our parks to accommodate more and more tourists for big bucks and global warming, the latter thanks to the so called “developed World.” and all those that follow.

    Some delegates at the Climate Change Conference may have been lucky enough before or after all the “bla-bla” to have seen the wonderful spectacle of the huge numbers of animals that make up one of the greatest shows on earth and they will take back fond memories of their stay in Africa as they jet back home, leaving a trail of Co2 in their wake. Jetting home will produce as much carbon dioxide as Nairobi and her foul cars lorries , buses and “matatus” produce in one year! The delegates leave us Africans behind suffering the worst effects of global warming.

    It is no accident that the snows and ice of our famous mountains of Kilimanjaro, Kenya and the Ruwenzoris will soon be a thing of the past. Floods and drought have become more commonplace and we face destruction of our coastline as the sea rises.

    Therefore our voice must be heard on the World stage and we deserve to be heard. After all we pollute the planet the least. (even if our “Daladalas” smoke a lot) Our voice must not be apologetic. We must develop our own strategies to deal with our own destruction of our delicate environment but also we have to deal with the impact of globalization and global warming. Rapid industrialization will create for us much wanted jobs but what of the health of our planet earth? The guys with the big bucks can certainly help us in our struggle but the lasting solution will be as global in nature as the problem we face or we all go the way of the Dodo. Meantime East African unity must not be sacrificed on the altar of selfish national agendas and we must work together so that the annual migration that has continued for a million years continues forever.

    Copyright © 2006 Arusha Times. All rights reserved.

  2. Tanzania: Site of the Great Migration

    Arusha Times (Arusha)

    November 26, 2006
    Posted to the web November 28, 2006

    Gervase Tatah Mlola
    Arusha

    After long speculations, wishes and debates, the Great Wildebeest Migration of Serengeti National Park has finally been declared the Seventh Wonder of the world. In a joint project undertaken by USA Today and ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, a multi-disciplined panel has named the “Site of the Great Migration,” which includes about 90 per cent of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, as the Seventh New Wonder of the World. The panelists who completed the new list of the new wonders of the world, different from the ancient wonders known for centuries, noted Serengeti and its Wildebeest Migration “a rare and wondrous natural drama remaining on earth.”

    According to ABC, the other new six wonders of the world include the Polar Ice Caps in Iceland, the Underwater Coral Reef in Hawaii Island, Tibet’s Potala Palace, Old Jerusalem City, the Mayan Pyramids in Mexico and the Internet.

    Serengeti is Africa’s greatest national park. It lies in northern Tanzania between Ngorongoro Crater and the shores of Lake Victoria, and between the northern frontier and Lake Eyasi. With and area of 14,763sqkm, its ecosystem extends beyond the park’s boundaries to include sections of Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the east, the Mara Game Reserve to the south, and the Maasai Mara Reserve in the north. The entire ecosystem makes the limits of the annual great wildebeest migration, one of the most magnificent wildlife spectacles of our planet today.

    Every year, more than 1.5 million wildebeests, 600 thousand zebras and 300 thousand gazelles, moving in a gigantic herd, migrate from the southeast part of the park to the greener west and north and return again to the south in a clockwise circle. Around the month of June, after the rains, the animals gather in large herds and then begin the long march away from the southern section of the park.

    No one knows for sure what triggers the migration but what is certain is that the herds know that the grass is greener on the other side and they know when to move and where to go. In their thousands, these animals travel in long moving columns that at certain points extend for forty kilometers, and which ultimately will describe huge oblong figures a thousand kilometers across within an ecosystem of 250, 000 sq. kilometers.

    Crossing dangerous rivers, tramping for many kilometers and grunting in clouds of dust, the animals move with the spirit of nomads, looking for brighter, more attractive pastures on the other side. Following behind the grand multitude are packs of wild dogs and hyenas, families of cheetahs, and prides of lions all pursuing the matching herbivores. Above the long, noisy procession are circling vultures and other scavenging and hunting birds, also looking for fortune. It is truly one of the wonders of the natural world – if not in fact the most wonderful of all.
    Relevant Links
    East Africa
    Wildlife
    Sustainable Development
    Ecotourism
    Tanzania
    Games Parks and Safaris

    The director general of Tanzania National Parks, Mr. Gerald Bugurube notes that “the animals spend most of their time in the Serengeti, 8 – 9 months a year, because of the availability of ample food resources. It is also in the Serengeti that they ensure their species’ survival by calving and nurturing their young.” Indeed, calving takes place as soon as they return to southern Serengeti around the end of the year. Almost all the females give birth, resulting to scores of thousands of newborn calves, more than compensate for the numbers lost to crocodiles at river crossings, to land predators, to tough terrain, to natural causes. The animals will remain in this area until the long rain season ends when they regroup themselves again and begin another migration cycle.

    News of declaring Serengeti and its spectacular wildlife the Seventh Wonder of the World has put Tanzania at the pinnacle of the Africa’s tourism map. “Tanzania is thrilled and proud of the Serengeti’s inclusion in the new Seven Wonders list,” comments Jumanne Maghembe, minister for tourism and natural resources. “Wildlife conservation has always been a top priority of the Tanzanian Government – with over 25 per cent of the land protected by law. Now with this new honour, comes the added responsibility of our government to ensure that this new natural wonder will be protected for generations to come. And we humbly accept this responsibility.”

    Most tour operators bring their clients to the northern tourism circuit of Tanzania to see the best Great Migration experience. Judi Wineland, president of the Boston-based Thomson Safaris says, “At least 85 per cent of the 700mile path of the Great Migration takes place in Serengeti National park, giving our guest the optimum opportunity to witness this spectacular scene. It is no surprise that this was selected as the new Seventh Wonder of the World.

    Copyright © 2006 Arusha Times. All rights reserved.

  3. Kenya: Protests Over U.S. Firm’s Plan for Serengeti

    East African (Nairobi)

    5 June 2007
    Posted to the web 5 June 2007

    Mike Mande
    Nairobi

    Kenya and Tanzania are opposing a controversial project that aims to turn the Serengeti and Maasai Mara game reserves into ordinary national parks.

    A US investor – Grumet Reserves Ltd – plans to build an international airport at Mugumu in Serengeti district of Mara region and a road highway linking Mara and Arusha regions through the Serengeti National Park.

    The simmering row began in March 2006, when the then Tanzanian Minister for Infrastructure Development, Basil Mramba and Robbert Dugger, chairman of Grumet Reserves Ltd, signed a memorandum of understanding over the use of millions of dollars from the Millennium Challenge Corporation for the two Serengeti projects. Mr Mramba is currently the Minister for Industry, Trade and Marketing

    However, the Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa), local and international non-governmental organisations and Kenya oppose the project because of its ecological and physiological impact on the parks and animals.

    Gerald Bigurube, director general of Tanapa, told The EastAfrican last week that development of human activities in Serengeti would restrict the movement of animals to Maasai Mara in Kenya and reduce gene flow, thereby impacting negatively on their population and species.

    “To maintain biodiversity and ecosystem functions in both the short and long-term it is necessary to maintain habitat connectivity so that individual animals can move freely across the landscape,” he said, adding that the international airport, the highway and other linear developments within the park would reduce and eliminate animal movements and habitat connectivity.

    Mr Bigurube said the Serengeti ecosystem is facing the problems that much of the world has already experienced – habitat reduction and fragmentation at a variety of spatial scales that has been widely acknowledged as a primary cause of the decline of many species worldwide such as that in the Mikumi National Park in Morogoro region.

    He said experts from Grumet Reserves had already made their feasibility studies for the two projects without involving Tanapa. The project is supposed to “lift Tanzania onto a new and much higher path of growth and job creation.”

    According to the memorandum of understanding, Grumet Reserves will build a highway from Musoma to Mto wa Mbu via Natta, Mugumu, Tabora B, Klein’s Camp and Loliondo through Serengeti National Park at a cost of $50 million.

    The international airport at Mugumu would cost an estimated $13.4 million while relocation of the Tanapa headquarters from Fort Ikoma to Tabora B and its construction will cost of $5.3 million. The relocation of Robanda Village and its construction is expected to cost $8.7 million.

    The 3.8 km runway at Mugumu will facilitate the landing and takeoff of jet aircraft from the US or elsewhere direct to the northern part of Serengeti National Park.

    But zoologists say noise from aircraft will expose animals to “excessive stimulation of their nervous systems, leading to chronic stress, which is harmful to the healthy growth and reproductive fitness of animals.”

    But Grumet Reserves says it is not involved in the construction of any road or airport in Serengeti.

    Robert Dugger, chairman of Grumet Reserves told The EastAfrican from Washington that his company is “committed to restoring and preserving the environment of the wildebeest migration route through the Grumet, Ikoma and Ikongoro game areas.”

    Mr Dugger said, “As part of our community development commitment, we studied a variety of regional economic development possibilities and decided to focus on water access and education.”

    “We are not involved in any northern road or airport projects – these are government responsibilities. It is our understanding that the government has been studying such projects for several decades,” he said.

    According to Mr Dugger, Grumeti Reserves Ltd is not a subsidiary or affiliate of Tudor Investment Corporation but a “fully independent philanthropic wildlife conservation and community development effort.”

    Joe ole Kuwai, projects director of Frankfurt Zoological Society’s Tanzania Regional Office had told The EastAfrican from Serengeti last week that they had had discussions with the proprietor of Grumet Reserves – Paul Tudor Jones – over the issue and that he will be coming over to Tanzania in July for further discussion.

    Mr Kuwai said that a zoological team of experts from the Frankfurt Zoological Society and Kenyan zoologists will this week meet the Tanzania Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Environment over the proposed projects.

    “The zoologists are opposing the project and they will be meeting Tanzanian parliamentarians to press for the halting of the projects,” he said, adding that they have asked the owner of Grumet Reserves Ltd to build a small airport at his hotel area.

  4. Thousands of wildebeest perish in Kenya
    Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:10am EDT

    MAASAI MARA, Kenya (Reuters) – Some 15,000 wildebeest have drowned in the Mara river during their annual migration between Tanzania and Kenya, shocking tourists and baffling conservationists, officials said on Wednesday.

    The mass death of the animals was the first of its kind in recent memory, officials said, and struck during peak season at the globally renowned Maasai Mara Game Reserve, which attracts some 300,000 tourists each year.

    The carcasses of wildebeest rotting since last week are being picked over by Maribu storks, vultures, crocodiles and other scavengers.

    Some visitors clutch handkerchiefs to their faces to cope with the smell as they take pictures of the pileup of corpses.

    “It was a strong tide that swept them away,” said Mara administrative official, Sarisa Nkadaru, adding that most wildebeest died when they were stepped on by others.

    Some officials blame the destruction of the nearby Mau forest for changing weather patterns and affecting tide levels, and they called on the government to curb the deforestation.

    “Had the forest not been destroyed, the speed of water in the river would have been checked and the wildebeest would not have been swept away,” local conservationist Doris Ombara said.

    “We have raised alarm over the dangers of the destruction and what was witnessed last weekend is one of them,” she said.

    But fears that tourists would be put off by the deaths were rejected by the reserve’s senior game warden, Michael Koikai. He said that although 15,000 was a huge loss, it was still a tiny percentage of the total.

    “This incident happened while peak season is still on, but it has not affected it as there are more than 5 million wildebeest in the Mara-Serengeti eco-system,” Kokkai said.

    Peak season begins in July and ends in late October when the wildebeest migrate back to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

    © Reuters 2007

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