Kenya's migration spectacle arrives early this year

2nd Dec 2013

Wildlife lovers on specialist tours flock in their multitudes to the annual migration of over one million wildebeest between Tanzania and Kenya.

A drought in Tanzania has given them their chance months earlier than expected this year.

Thousands of wildebeest have migrated back to Kenya four months ahead of schedule due to the consequent lack of pasture.

This yearly circular migration pattern between Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara Game Reserve started in the 1960s and has become one of the world's greatest tourism spectacles for safari lovers on tailor-made holidays.

The move is the result of a jump in wildebeest numbers after the control and ultimate end of rinderpest, a virulent disease affecting cattle and several other hoofed species.

This caused wildebeest populations to soar in the opening decades of the 20th century, forcing them to take part in annual migrations in search of enough food.

Nicholas Murero, coordinator for Kenya's Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, said he can never recall the wildebeest making such an early return.

Murero, speaking to the BBC show Focus on Africa, described the animals as looking "very thin" because of insufficient grazing in Tanzania.

The Serengeti National Park boasts almost 15,000 sq km of rolling savanna which affords some of Africa's best big game viewing.

The Serengeti, though based in Tanzania, also extends to south-west Kenya.

It is home to a great and stunning array of animals, including lions and elephants, who roam valleys once inhabited by some of man's earliest ancestors.

Amazingly, these vast stretches of Africa were still unknown to the West this time last century.

Then American hunter Stewart Edward White discovered them.

The Serengeti's own official website quotes White saying as he pushed south from Nairobi: "We walked for miles over burnt out country … then I saw the green trees of the river, walked two miles more and found myself in paradise."

Today, tourists still represents paradise for many tourists.

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