At least 300 wildebeests have drowned in the Mara River following a stampede as they were crossing over to Maasai Mara Game Reserve. The Sunday, August 23, incident was one of the largest single wildebeest deaths in recent history.
According to conservationists, the animals chose a wrong route to cross the now swollen river. Maasai Mara deputy chief game warden Eddy Nkoitoi said the animals were too many resulting to a stampede across the river channel. “So all the wildebeests that came from the back stepped on the first ones down and so on, hundreds died, giving hundreds of crocodiles and vultures more than they can chew,” said Nkoitoi. Chief Warden James Sindiyo said although they had died in large numbers, such a stampede was part of the migration phenomenon.
“During the migration, many wildebeests die from the stampede, drowning and even being preyed on. It is a game of the jungle and nature’s at its best. Drowning depends on the route the wildebeests take and the volume of water in the river. The more perilous and deep the route they choose, the more wildebeests are likely to die,” Sindiyo said.
Their bloated, rotting carcasses could be seen floating in the water, filling the air of Kenya’s most famous game park with the sickly stench of death. The wildebeest migration was named among the seven natural wonders of the world. It happens every year as several animals gather at the river’s banks before plunging into the water to cross over in search of pasture.
Each year, hundreds die in the stampede. Some simply drown in the swirling waters while others are snatched by crocodiles, but it is rare for such a big number to die in a single day. The cycle starts in the South of Serengeti in May when the land dries fast and the grazers must move on, heading for their dry season refuge in the Mara.
After covering over 150,000 square meters between July to October, hundreds of tourists gather around the river banks to watch the animals cross over. Between January and February, another interesting phenomenon unfolds as hundreds of wildebeests drop calves in a synchronised birthing that sees some 300,000 to 400,000 offsprings born.