Zebras Are Migrating An Incredible Distance Across Africa

By Mick Joest 2014-05-29 23:30:35
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Animals are moving en masse across the Serengeti. Specifically they’re travelling through Tanzania to Kenya, but Serengeti sounds so much cooler. This migration is the longest of any African mammal to date and includes 750,000 zebras, 1.2 million wildebeests, and varying numbers of gazelles and elands. The number is unprecedented and amazing to biologists recording the migration.

1.2 million wildebeests is indeed impressive. That could successfully stampede over an equivalent of 600 Mufasas which means 600 orphaned Simbas, which ultimately is good for the prideland. In all seriousness, this is the new record for a migration in general, but exceptionally impressive for those in the know about zebras. Oddly enough, the group migrated 300 miles in a strictly north/south direction there and back which is very odd for a group to do. Another odd point was that the zebras deviated from any detours that would have at times been more efficient and made the trip easier.

Biologists theorize that these migration patterns are ingrained into herds. There has been evidence of antelope in the Western part of the U.S. that have traveled the same route for over 6,000 years! It's said this is likely due to social interaction and landscapes leading the animals to instinctively follow the same route, but there may be some basis that it is passed on genetically. My base opinion, probably like yours, is that they are animals and they have no idea what they’re doing, but other studies show that may not be true!

Another study, National Geographic writes, talks about a case where a zebra migration pattern was blocked by a man made fence. The zebras adapted and made an alternate route, yet twenty years later when the fence was removed the zebras continued on their normal route. Granted it took four years for them to realize it, but who’s ever accused a zebra of being brilliant? So why is any of this important? Why are biologists dedicating a chunk of their professional careers to migratory patterns and where the zebra roam?

Migrating species, often in decline, are in turn protected by those observing these patterns and making sure the zebras are successful in their trips to other regions during the seasons. I approve, as I would hate to imagine a world without zebras, as it would be really hard to convince future generations they existed. I know if I never knew what a zebra was and you told me it was a basically a striped horse, I wouldn’t believe you. So keep on with your zebra-saving work biologists; you’ll save me a complicated discussion with my great-grandchildren years from now.


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