Every year, 1.2 million blue wildebeest migrate across East Africa, and despite their extraordinary numbers, they can still take you by surprise. “It’s like magic,” says Amanda Subalusky from Yale University. “One day, there are these vast empty plains of really tall grass. The next morning, you’ll wake up and the plains will be full of animals as far as you can see. There’ll be black specks across the landscape, like someone has taken a pepper shaker to the savannah.”

The wildebeest, accompanied by some 200,000 zebra and antelope, travel clockwise through the Serengeti, tracking pockets of rainfall and grazing on about 4,500 tons of grass every day. It’s the largest overland migration in the world. It’s also one of the deadliest. In the northern part of their route, the wildebeest must repeatedly cross the mighty Mara River—and many fail.

Natural history documentaries like to show crocodiles killing the wildebeest, but being cold-blooded, crocs have small appetites and are easily sated. For every wildebeest that they kill, 50 more drown on their own. “They’re anxious and hesitant when they get to rivers,” says Subalusky. “The herd piles up on the bank, and hours or days can go by before they get …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Science

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