Farming, fences and settlements from an expanding population on the African continent is threatening the wonderful 1.3 million wildebeest migration and other animals with which we are so familiar in the West. This spectacular event, which has been photographed by many excellent photographers, may be coming to an end.
Wildebeest and other animals migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya. On the boundaries of the conservation areas settlements farmers are encroaching on the reserve. This restricts the freedom of movement of the animals and it limits the pastures which in turn restricts movements.
Joseph Ogutu of the University of Hohenheim said that the study concluded that there had been a two thirds drop over the past four decades in the number of migrating animals.
There is a real danger that the migration will completely cease in the future.
“The end of the migration would have a knock-on effect on other animals, especially the apex predators such as lions and leopards. Collapse of the migration would increase predation of the resident grazers,”Mr Ogutu
This is another example, and a tragic one, of the impact of human activity on wildlife on the African continent. The researchers came to their conclusions by monitoring vegetation including data from aerial surveys and satellite trackers attached to the migrating animals.
The animals are being squeezed into the centre of the reserve by farming on the fringes. This leads to overgrazing and the soil becoming vulnerable to droughts. The grassland is being turned into shrub or woods because there are fewer natural wildfires which would prevent young trees and shrubs from taking root.
The new habitat encourages leaf-munching animals like giraffes but discourages hartebeest. To compound the problem, forests have been cut down upstream of the Serengeti-Mara system. This has reduced the flow of water leaving hippos walking on rocks rather than wallowing in water.