Near our camp in the Maswa Game Reserve, this group of wildebeests walked along the alkaline lake in the early morning. Our guides had told us that with the recent rain, the grass would grow quickly and the herds would return. On our drive the day before, we had seen columns of wildebeests migrating toward camp.
This group has six adults and one baby. I expected more babies — by late February, the calving was complete. Our guide said that about 80% of the newborn wildebeests don’t survive the first year: approximately a quarter die in the first few months, a quarter die crossing the rivers west of the Serengeti, and a quarter die in the Masai Mara. The west and Masai Mara both have rivers with crocodiles. The western Serengeti rivers have the first crocodiles encountered by the young wildebeests, and wildebeests aren’t prepared for the river crossing. The crocodiles get much of their annual food from the migration, so they gather and wait.
We noticed there were a lot more flies than before. Had a thousand flies hitched a ride with every new wildebeest that migrated here? Our guide explained that flies lay eggs in the dung. When the eggs are moistened by rain, baby flies emerge. So the wildebeests migrating into the area didn’t cause more flies. The recent rain triggered both the new grass (causing wildebeests to migrate into the area) and newborn flies hatching.
Driving on the savanna, we saw three cheetahs: a mother and two 1-year-old cheetahs.
We waited to see if they would hunt the nearby wildebeests and gazelles. But they only hid in the tall grass, so we drove on. In the photo below, there’s a cheetah head sticking up on each side of the photo.
At noon we found a cheetah mother and four cubs with a gazelle kill. It was the same cheetah family we had seen two days earlier. Our guide compared the two cheetah families. One family has four month-old cubs ; the second family has the two year-old cheetahs. The family with the older children has fewer children. Is this normal? Some cubs will not survive their first year, despite the best care of the mother. Yes, half the cheetah cubs surviving their first year is normal. 😦
Back at camp we saw this marabou stork. They’re large (up to 1.5 m tall) and not pretty.
On the evening game drive we saw a mother and baby striped hyena.