Serengeti wildebeest, zebra migration, new research


This video is called Serengeti – The Adventure (Full Documentary, HD).

From Wildlife Extra:

New findings on what drives the great annual migration across the Serengeti

Across the Serengeti-Mara, millions of wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra are making their annual migration in one of the most spectacular sights of the natural world.

Six of these animals are currently wearing high-tech GPS collars, equipped with mobile phone technology – and over the past 10 years, a total of 40 have done so.

Scientists involved in this unique tracking programme analyse how these animals make decisions during their migration and use this information to devise effective mitigation strategies to ensure their survival.

The research, led by Dr Grant Hopcraft of the University of Glasgow’s Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health, sheds new light on the drivers behind the animals’ migratory decision-making.

The group’s findings suggest that although wildebeest and zebra migrate together, they move for very different reasons: wildebeest are constantly looking for fresh grazing, whereas zebra balance their need to access good food against the relative risk of being killed by a predator.

However, the results also show that both species are driven, above all else, by the need to avoid the threat of humans and human development.

“The impact of humans trumps everything else,” said Dr Hopcraft.

“This provides critical insights as to why other migrations are collapsing,” he added, pointing elsewhere, to the dwindling numbers of saiga (small antelopes) found on the Mongolian Steppes, the Mongolian gazelle, a horse-like animal called the kulan, the pronghorn antelope in the US state of Montana, and caribou and bison in North America.

The findings on the impact of human behaviour come at a time when the Tanzanian government has been considering a national highway through the Serengeti to create a trade route from Dar es Salaam and other Indian Ocean ports to Lake Victoria, offering access to countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda.

If built, the road is likely to carry as many as 3,000 vehicles across the Serengeti every day.

“A road would have catastrophic effects on how these animals migrate,” said Dr Hopcraft. “It would separate their dry season refuge from their wet season calving grounds.

“All 1.3 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra would have to cross that road in order to access the Mara River which is the only source of water during the dry season.”

Another threat to wildebeest and zebra is poaching. Evidence suggests there are about 80,000 wildebeest hunted illegally every year for the bushmeat trade.

“When these animals encounter areas of high poaching, both species attempt to exit the area as soon as possible by moving a long way and in straight lines, regardless of the food.

It appears as though these animals can detect risky areas and respond accordingly, which means if we want to protect migrations we need to focus on managing humans and not the animals.”

The lightweight tracking collars, which weigh 1kg and contain a GPS device, mobile phone engine and battery pack, can last up to two years and give the scientists real-time information about how the animals respond to the landscape around them.

The scientists select female animals which are reproductively active as they are most responsive to migratory decision-making.

Dr Hopcraft also reports a puzzling and previously unremarked phenomenon of migrations: when wildebeest and zebra encounter prime habitats with very good grazing, they move faster than when they are in areas with poor grazing.

“Moving fast when resources are good, rather than settling down in one spot and enjoying the feast, is counter-intuitive. Why move if you’re in a good spot? Every other species does exactly the opposite.

“We believe the difference in the wildebeest and zebra’s behaviour is down to the sheer density of the herds. It’s a numbers game,” he said.

When the grazing is at its peak, the prime grass is eaten almost immediately and individuals are then forced to find the next hotspot before everyone else does. In other words, the competition for food drives the race.

This unique eat-and-run feature of mass migrations suggests that we might be losing key ecosystem processes, without even realising it.

If animals such as bison behaved like wildebeest when they were in super-high concentrations, then the distribution and cycling of nutrients such as dung and urine was probably very different in these eco-systems historically, compared to today.

“These intact ecosystems where natural process such as migrations have occurred for thousands of years serve as a critical benchmark against which we can measure our own impact,” said Dr Hopcraft.

Save Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountain forests


This video from Tanzania is called Eastern Arc Mountains Refuge.

From BirdLife:

Tanzanian conservationists propose ways of securing the Eastern Arc Mountain forests

By Obaka Torto, Wed, 23/07/2014 – 14:58

Tanzanian conservationists drawn from government and civil society have drafted a set of six policy and management recommendations on how to reduce threats currently facing biodiversity in the Eastern Arc Mountain forests of Tanzania (EAM), part of a global biodiversity hotspot.  This was accomplished during a workshop held on 16th July 2014 in Morogoro, Tanzania, at the foot of Uluguru Mountains.

The Eastern Arc Mountain forests of Tanzania consist of a complex of ranges and peaks that are among the oldest in Africa, as they are the forest communities of the region. They cover about 5,350 km2 and host large numbers of endemic plants and animals. Many locally endemic species of plants and animals are restricted to single mountain ranges, for e.g. the Usambara Mountains of northeast Tanzania alone have some 50 endemic tree species. Two Critically Endangered bird species, the Uluguru Bush-shrike and the Long-billed Tailorbird are found in these forests. They also provide water for industrial, agriculture and domestic use to the main towns as well as a rich site of biodiversity attracting both local and international tourists.

The participants, including Nature Reserve Conservators, Regional Agricultural Advisors, Tanzania Forestry Service (TFS) zonal managers, Mining Officers as well as Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), Tanzania Biodiversity Facility (TanBIF), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST) and Eastern Arc Mountains Conservation Endowment Fund (EAMCEF) analysed threats facing the forests. They identified major threats to the forests as illegal harvesting of trees/poles, forest fires, encroachment for agriculture and illegal mining.

For some time, degradation in the Eastern Arc Mountain Forests has been driven by poor law enforcement arising from differing forest ownership and management structures; over-reliance on forests for livelihoods; and limited participation of communities in forest management. Moreover, the fact that institutions mandated to conserve and protect these precious forests pulled in different directions only helped to worsen degradation and amplify the threats.

“We have resolved that the Tanzania Forest Service (TFS) and Local Government Authorities need to work in greater harmony in order to address these challenges” concluded Mr. Bruno Mallya, TFS Southern Highland Zonal Manager. “Key forests that have never been fully protected also require attention as well as implementing Participatory Forest Management (PFM) across all forest reserves. Forest fires will be better addressed if forest authorities work with land owners and forest boundaries respected”, added Mr. Rwamugira Sosthenes, the Conservator for the Uluguru Nature Reserve.

The recommendations from the meeting will be documented in a policy brief that will be shared with policy makers, including Permanent Secretaries in relevant line ministries, and forest and local government officers at district level. “We will support in delivering these recommendations to the relevant authorities through producing the policy brief and meeting the relevant authorities in Tanzania” committed Festo Semanini, the Head of Conservation Programmes in the BirdLife Tanzania Project Office.

In her closing remarks, Ms. Anna Lawuo, the TFS Coordinator of the Coastal Forest Project, representing the TFS Director of Resources Management at the event, challenged conservation workers to make local communities even more aware of the values of these unique forests.  “We need to halt the key threats mentioned today, especially illegal logging of timber, since these have huge negative implications for ecosystem services provided by the forests”, she said. “We must also reduce the pressures these forests are facing externally” she added.

The workshop was facilitated by a team from BirdLife International supported by Mr. Chacha Werema of University of Dar es Salaam. This was part of a BirdLife project entitled ‘Consolidating biodiversity data and information in Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Tanzania and Kenya’ and funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

Story by Mercy Kariuki, Kariuki Ndang’ang’a and Olivia Adhiambo

Tanzania’s whales and elephants


This video is called Tanzania – An African Wildlife Utopia.

From Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam):

Animals Who Own the Sea

By Reginald Stanislaus Matillya, 8 February 2014

BETWEEN October and November Saadani National Park provides visitors a golden chance of seeing different species of Whales on the way to Jozani Forest National park in Zanzibar.

This feature gives Saadani National Park a special taste of watching the two largest animals in the World – Elephants and Whales. With a body measuring up to 30 metres or 98 ft in length and weighing more than 200 tonnes the Blue Whale is the largest animal on Earth because one full grown male is equal to forty full grown male African Bush Elephants who weigh 5 tonnes each.

The two giants come from one big kingdom of animals, a phylum of Chordata and class of mammals which include air breathing vertebrate animals who possess mammary glands which produce milk to feed their offspring.

Female Blue Whale gives birth to a single or twin calves after a gestation period of about a year weighing three tonnes like a full grown female African Bush Elephant who approximately weighs 3 tonnes.

The African Bush Elephant which is regarded as the largest land animal gives birth to an offspring weighing about 100 kilogrammes after the longest gestation period among mammals of 22 months.

Both calves of Blue Whale and Elephant starts their life by suckling nutritious milk from their mother as the baby elephant spend five months while baby Blue Whale takes a full year suckling their mother’s milk only.

During the first seven months of its life, a baby Blue Whale drinks approximately 400 litres of milk every day while and Elephant can hardly manage to drink 15 litres of milk reach in fat and protein.

Whale’s milk is more nutritious than one from an Elephant because fifty per cent of its content is made of fat, thirty- five protein and fifteen other important nutrients. This enables a young Blue Whale to add 90 kilogrammes after every 24 hours so by the time they are weaned within six months of age they are about 52 feet long and weighing about 23 tonnes.

At the beginning of winter in northern hemisphere pregnant female Blue Whales will migrate into Tropical area and swim to shallow warm water of the Indian Ocean to give birth.

While in the labour clinic located some few miles from the city of Dar es Salaam in the middle of Indian Ocean, the mother will allow the baby to come out from her womb by the tail first then the whole body.

After giving birth the mother will assist her new born to swim into a safe area with her flippers after 30 minutes although a baby Blue is capable to swim within ten minutes of their birth.

Blue Whales reach sexual maturity when they are ten years old although it is believed that male get matured later than female.

Blue Whales start mating in late autumn on September and continue until the coming of winter in December in Northern Hemisphere. Before mating a Blue Whale will sing a special song in series of pulses, groans, and moans to attract a sexual partner who may be up to 1,000 miles or 1,600 kilometres away and hear the call.

Among Elephant society there is no special period for mating so it can take place any time of the year.

When a female feel like having an intercourse she makes a special louder voice to alert all male in that area who may be a kilometre away.

The call will attract bulls who will come and engage in a fight until a victor is obtained and accepted by a female by rubbing her body against him then the two will separate from the group to mate in a conducive situation.

The Blue Whale has a gigantic body equivalent in size with a space shuttle orbiter or NBA basketball’s court but longer than it.

Their bodies are too heavy beyond comparison with a body of any single living thing in the entire world because weighing 200 tonnes you may compare them with eight DC 9 airplanes or fifteen big buses which ply between Arusha and Dar es Salaam.

Although they have those massive bodies Blue Whales are good swimmers because they can reach a top speed of 48.5 kilometres per hour in a bust but usually they cruise at a speed of 19.5 kilometres per hour.

Sleeping is an elusive phenomena to these two giants on Earth because in middle of the Sea to avoid drowning Blue Whales do not sleep totally instead, they rest part of their brain and leave one eye opened while swimming slowly because if they go down to the floor they can not breath, eventually they will die.

Elephants are not good sleepers but when they feel that they need to rest, it will be done for a maximum of four hours involving short naps of thirty minutes with long intervals of foraging, standing and walking and repeat the cycle until they reach four hours of sleeping in a day.

Elephants sleep directly on the ground, they lie down on the ground and sleep on their sides and since they get up a lot they often switch sides.

The main reason of this is that their big bodies make it uncomfortable to sleep like other animal in the wild because when they lie down to get some rest they put all their weight on their bones.

Blue Whales use their giant mouth with a tongue large like an Elephant to take in 5,000 litres of water some of which is forced out through two blowholes on top of the head in a spay going as high as a three storey building.

Elephants are herbivorous who eat 450 kilogrammes of vegetation per day while Blue Whale is carnivorous capable of eating 4 tons of Krill which are small Shrimplike animals in a day.

Elephants are intelligent animals who possess a smart brain weighing 5 kilogrammes compared with a 200 tonnes Blue Whale with a brain weighing only 10 kilogrammes.

The brain of an Elephant is similar to that of human being in terms of structure and complexity. The smart brain gives elephants ability to use their trunk properly and to recognise and respect remains of their loved ones. It is said they moan the death of their kind like humans and take care of a baby elephant when its mother dies.

Elephant has no real enemy in the wild but people who hunt and kill them for ivories. This also applies to Blue Whale hunted and killed by people for meat and oil.

Unlike the African Elephants, in the deep sea Blue Whales face predators who attack like African wild dogs.

A lonely Blue Whale in the deep sea may fall victim to Killer Whales who hunt in deadly parks called pods consisting of about forty or more individuals.

Pods use effective, cooperative hunting techniques like those we see from wild dogs whereby they chase and kill their victim without suffocation.

They feast on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even Blue whales by applying their sharp ten centimetres teeth on the flesh of their victims. It has been proved that Killer Whales are cannibals who sometime attack, kill and eat each other especially their weak fellows.

Killer Whales make a wide variety of communicative sounds and each pod has distinctive noises that its members will recognise even at a distance.

Male Killer whales typically range from 6 to 8 metres or 20 to 26 ft long and weigh 6 tonnes like a full grown African Bush Elephant in the wild.

Females are smaller, generally ranging from 5 to 7 metres or 16 to 23 ft and weighing about 3 to 4 tones.

The killer whale’s large size and strength make it among the fastest marine mammals capable of reaching a top speed of 56 kilometres per hour.

Killer whales have good eyesight above and below the water, excellent hearing, and a good sense of touch.

They have exceptionally sophisticated echolocation mechanism which enables them to detect the location and characteristics of a prey and other objects in their environments by emitting clicks and listening for echoes.

Males sexually mature at the age of 15, but do not typically reproduce until age 21 while female mature at around age 15 and bear a single offspring after a gestation period of 15 to 18 months.

Female stop breading at the age of 40 while their lifespan is 50 years and maximum age is 90 years. Males live around 29 years on average and have a maximum age of 50 to 60 years. Killer Whales are present in all sea and oceans of the World including the Indian Ocean where they are frequently seen in an area between Tanzania and Seychelles.

Both Blue Whales and Killer Whales perform a spectacular show called Breaching which involve jumping out of water into the air and slamming their bodies into the water again. Tourists follow Whales in the sea to watch these attractive games.

It is possible to see Whales in Tanzania which borders with the Indian Ocean where Mnazi Bay Marine Park, Mafia Marine Park, Maziwi Island Marine Reserve, Chumbe Marine Park, Mnembe Marine Park, Misali Marine Park, Menei Marine Park, and Saadani National Park are located.

The coastal line of Tanzania starts north on the border with Kenya and stretch about 1,424 kilometres southward to the border with Mozambique.

The country has Maritime claims of territorial sea for 12 nautical miles and an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles where the big sea mammals dwell.

The best position to watch whales may be in Zanzibar, Mafia and Mtwara.

Both The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Convention on International Trade in Endangered

Species (CITES) have listed Blue Whale, Killer Whale and The African Elephant in the endangered species which need special protection.

Whales may have a previously unknown appetite for eels: here.

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