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The Great Migration

November 6, 2010

Migration of animals is such an interesting phenomenon where animals and birds and insects, big and small all over the earth move around in huge numbers to optimize their chances of survival. If you are interested in this topic you might want to catch up with a new series on National Geographic titled ” Great Migrations“. First episode of seven part series airs on  Nov 7th, 8 PM. The series is aptly subtitled as “Move as Millions. Survive as One” and you can preview first 15 minutes of the show here:

Coming back to above picture, you can see zebras amidst wildebeest herd and this is quite a common sighting in East African jungles where both the species migrate together and benefit from each others company. If you ask, what are the benefits they get from each other, I will try to enlist some of them which I gathered from the net.

  1. Wildebeest and zebras can migrate in harmony as they both prefer different parts of the grass when grazing and so there is no conflict of interest in terms of food. Wildebeests are short grass grazers while zebras have long front teeth which facilitates them in feeding upon longer grass. So when the herd enters a new area, zebras basically mow the whole area which helps wildebeest to feed upon soft parts of the grass, and then zebras feed upon the leftover parts. So the feeding pattern works out for both of them.
  2. Zebras have good memories and the are good travelers as they can remember the directions and they watch carefully when and where to cross places before jumping in. Wildebeest on the other hand move in herd without much thought which many of the times lead to their peril as well. So being with zebras gives wildebeest better navigating capabilities.
  3. Wildebeests are good in sensing water and this feature is very helpful to both the species when they are migrating in dry lands of Eastern African jungles.
  4. Zebras have better hearing and seeing capabilities which helps them in sensing danger better.
  5. There is also a hypothesis that lions prefer eating wildebeest meat, or maybe they are easy to hunt, so being with a weak prey such as a wildebeest is a good thing for zebra, quite clever. [Source: goafrica.about.com]

In the picture below, you can see a young zebra following it’s mother while migrating. Baby zebra stays with it’s mother and recognizes her by voice, smell and stripe patterns. It’s interesting to note that no two zebras look exactly the same and baby zebras can figure out that pretty easily.

Picture credit: Boston.com/National Geographic/Marc Moritsch/Mitsuaki Iwago/ Minden Pictures

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