The Great Mara River Crossing

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The Mara River flows through Kenya and Tanzania in the continent of Africa, intersecting the migration path of wildebeest and other animals in the Serengeti-Masai Mara game reserves. Over two million animals consisting of wildebeest, zebra and gazelle migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya during July through to October. This movement of hundreds of thousands of animals, often dubbed the Great Migration, is one of the greatest spectacles of the natural world. During their journey they have to cross the perilous Mara River that lies right across their route. The Mara River crossing is considered to be the biggest and the most dramatic of all wildlife crossings, and has been the center of many documentaries.

The migration takes place within the Serengeti- Mara ecosystem. Strictly speaking, there is neither start nor finish as the animals circle the Serengeti- Mara ecosystem in their endless search for food and water. They spend months trekking Serengeti-Masai Plains until they reach the Mara River.

Wildebeest arrive at the Mara River in their tens of thousands, and gather waiting to cross. For days they wait for their brothers to arrive and the numbers keep building up. Eventually the wildebeest choose a crossing point. Usually the chosen point is a fairly placid stretch of water without too much predator-concealing vegetation in the far side, although occasionally they choose seemingly suicidal places and drown in their hundreds.

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The crossing is the single greatest hurdle the animals face during their journey. The crossing points form bottlenecks in which thousands of animals perish through trampling or drowning. The crocodiles capitalize on this to prey on the animals as they struggle to make towards the river bank. The Maasai Mara also has one of the largest densities of lion in the world and they along with other carnivores such as hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs that stalk and hunt on the wildebeest.

Each year around 1.5 million wildebeest and 300,000 zebra along with other antelope go in search of food and water. Their journey is long and tough and every year an estimated 250,000 wildebeest never make it.

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Sources: Maasaimara, BBC

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