Magical March Migration – Mara Toto, Kenya

   A Masai Mara sunset with topis and an ostrich

As some of you may know from previous reports, as of a month ago there has been a slow and steady stream of wildlife moving into the central Mara from the east.

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Impala and Eland silhouette

Three weeks ago we reported of these large herds of zebra, topi, eland, wildebeest, Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles up on the plateau of the northern Olare-Motorogi conservancy. Such a large assortment of plains wildlife was last in this area towards the end of November and into December when we went through an amazing few weeks of abundance, variety and the action that goes with it. Now, three months later, these same herds are back, moving in from the direction of the Loita Hills to the east where they may have arrived and lacked grazing, or their path may have been blocked by the now fast-developing area along the main Narok-Sekenani road. Whatever the cause of this three-month migration cycle it has been amazing to witness them arrive back in the lush long grass of the conservancies and the Mara reserve.

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Members of the paradise pride with one very small cub

Now, three weeks after the core of this regional movement descended off the Motorogi plateau, they have passed through the plains around Mara Plains and Mara Toto where today many of their number remain making the most of the ample grazing. The western front of this movement (about 4 kilometers across) of thousands of zebra and other species has, as of now, just reached the Topi plains heading in the direction of the Musiara marshes.

With this western branch swinging west, there appears to be another movement splitting off the main herds and beginning to swing back south-east and even some back northwards towards the Olare-Motorogi and beyond.

As you can imagine this massive influx of wildlife has a very big (but always positive) impact on the land, vegetation and the other species.

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Coke’s hartebeest

The obvious reason for the general movement of these herds 80 kilometers west would be following the recent bout of four days of rain and the subsequent grass growth. Now, three months since the December rains, you can imagine how long this grass is in places – perfect for the massive numbers of zebra moving through with their specialized molars and need for high quantity consumption. Behind where these herds have passed one can see a huge difference with the grass having been cropped short and so made perfect for the next line and niche of plains grazers specializing in nibbling the fresh shoots and leaves. It is in these areas where today, driving through, one can count close to a thousand Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles in what could be called a corridor on its own – cheetah heaven as the female with the three cubs has recently found out.

 

If you can picture the next best thing for a grassy savannah after having long course grass removed allowing fresh growth would be fertilization. Well, there is plenty of that as you can imagine, and with this the bugs and birds that rely on it as a source of food or food for their food and so on.

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Kori bustard in full display

So now the holistic picture starts to form with the onset of the rains and the subsequent movement of huge volumes of wildlife through the Mara region. The knock on effect of this movement is that the entire ecosystem benefits through specialized niches that the animals occupy in the circle of life – the grazing, the fertilizing, the predation, the scavenging and the dependencies on all of these processes – then will come the long rains to start a new era of growth and a time of plenty. This is something that the wildlife know is coming and so they have, in Nature’s wonderful way, prepared for this with young in every species – foals and fawns and calves and cubs in every quarter.

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Two of the ten new cubs in the Moniko pride

What an incredible time to be in the Masai Mara and the northern conservancies.

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One of the more curious of the ten

Photos:

Sunset- Richard Pye

Silouette- Richard Pye

Paradise pride- Richard Pye

Coke’s hartebeest- Richard Pye

Kori display – Richard Pye

Moniko cubs- Lorna Buchanan-Jardine

Lone curious cub- Richard Pye

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