Dominant grazers

Wildebeest, often described as a cross between the body of an antelope,  the tail of a horse, and the head of a buffalo, are vastly important to ecosystem diversity.   Since the 1960s, the population of migratory wildebeest across the Serengeti wildebeest has remained relatively stable (~1.3 million individuals) after recovery from the virus rinderpest.  At the same time, other “non-migratory” individuals, like those across the Mara and Loita Plains have declined precipitously.  In some areas, as much as 98%.  The concern from ecologists globally is the long-term sustainability of these populations.  I continue to track individuals in these populations with partners to better understand how they’re responding to rapid changes and hopefully, provide scientifically-based information to make informed decisions.

Wildebeest grazing across the Mara ecosystem

Reports from researchers indicate that the historic migration has been disrupted this year.  It’s unclear why, but potential factors include fires in Tanzania or shifts in resources, which can make migration non-advantageous.  The attached picture shows members of the population that did migrate, grazing across the Mara Plains in the Olare Orok Conservancy.  Go “Beests”!

Greater Mara Ecosystem

This magnificent male leopard (“Chui” in Swahili) allowed us to visit with him for a few hours.

Just back from a few important meetings in the Greater Mara ecosystem.  We’re discussing ways to combat the increased rate of fencing across the region, with an emphasis on using movement data to inform conservation priorities.  Importantly, we are aiming to identify important migratory corridors to determine which parcels of land need to be purchased to maintain habitat connectivity.

Following the meeting, we had dinner with Nick Lapham and Alan Earnshaw in the Naboisho conservancy to discuss potential collaborations.  Along the way, we stopped to see a male leopard relaxing in the tall grass.  The following day we came across a family of cheetah, a mother and four cubs.  It doesn’t get much better than this.

Two siblings playing in the morning sun, Naboisho conservancy.