Common Wildebeest - Mammals

Common Wildebeest - map of occurrence

Common Wildebeest

Connochaetes taurinus

conservation status Least Concern

Weight:males 180-230kg (400-500lb), females 150-180kg (330-400lb)
Shoulder height: 1.2-1.4m (3ft 11in -4ft 7in)
Lenght: 1.7-2.4m (5ft 7in - 7ft 10in) + tail 0.7-1m (2ft 6in - 3ft 3in)
Wild population: max. 1.200.000 individuals
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Gestation: 8 months, 1 calf
Voice: grunt
Range: south from Kenya, Tanzania to SA
Habitat: grassy plains, wooded grasslands, acacia thickets

Protecting organisations:

Wildebeests can tolerate arid regions, as long as a potable water supply is available. Since all Wildebeests require a long drink every day or two, they must have water within about 15 or 25 kilometers distance. Their blunt muzzles are best equipped for biting short green grasses, since a wide incisor row prevents more selective feeding. Short grasses of these type are usually only found on alkaline or volcanic soils.
The Serengeti herds are purely migratory and abandon the usual plains after the rainy season has ended, in order to seek higher grasses in wetter areas. Grasslands bordering alkaline lakes or pans are particularly choice dry season (winter) habitats. Herds may be mixed gender with a dominant male, female only or bachelor only. Blue Wildebeest often graze together with other species such as Plains zebras for purposes of mutual protection. Zebras in particular are beneficial to co-exist with since they mow down highly vegetated areas leaving the wildebeests to eat the newly exposed and more nutritional short grasses, which is what they prefer. A Blue Wildebeest can attain a speed of up to 65 kilometers per hour.
Wildebeests are a favorite prey item to lions and spotted hyenas. They also fall prey to cheetahs, leopards, wild dogs and Nile crocodiles. The latter stalk them at river crossings.

From the vast Serengeti plains to the hills of Kenya’s Masai Mara over 1.2 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebra and gazelle, tracked by great predators like lions, cheetahs or hyenas, migrate in a clockwise fashion over 2,500 km each year in search of rain ripened grass. I personally have to put in doubth the 1.2 million as the on going bushmeat poaching in Tanzania reduces the wildebeest herds rapidly...

Back to the topic, there is no real beginning or end to a wildebeest's journey. Its an endless pilgrimage, a constant search for food and water right after the birth. An estimated up to 400,000 wildebeest calves are born during a six week period early each year - usually between late January and mid-March.

December, January, Feburary, March: the seemingly vast plains of the southern Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are inhabited by enormous herds of wildebeest and zebra grazing on rain ripened grass. In the calving season (late January through mid March when most of the wildebeest give birth over a period of a few weeks) the herds concentrate at the Ndutu and Salei plains (Southern Serengeti / Ngorongoro Conservation Area) attracting the attention of predators like lion, cheetah and hyena.

April, May: During these months the depleted plains are unable to sustain the endless herds. The migration, sweeping west and north, moves from the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti / Ngorongoro Conservation Area to the long grass plains and woodland of the Serengeti’s western Corridor, almost to Lake Victoria. This period is during the long rains and is considered off season for wildlife viewing in east Africa as roads are often impassable. Ndutu Safari Lodge, Kusini Camp and the Serengeti Serena Lodge are fine for wildlife viewing during this time. So are campsites in the Ndutu/Naabi area.

June: By the end of May the wildebeest have exhausted the Western Corridor’s best pastures and the herds must move further north. Entering the Lamai Wedge and the Mara Triangle.This is a transitional period between the rains and the dry season. Faru Faru River Lodge, Sasakwa Hill Lodge, Sabora Plains Tented Camp, Grumeti River Camp, Migration Camp, and Kirawira Camp are good options for viewing the migration at this time. Seronera and Moru area campsites are best.

July, August, September, October: By July the herds have amassed along the Mara River - a final barrier from the short green grasses of the Masai Mara. Sometimes the crossing place they have chosen is shallow allowing the majority of animals to pass safely. In other areas the waters boil with drowning wildebeest and slashing crocodiles. Please note that the vast majority of travelers do not witness the wildebeest crossing of the Mara as the timing and duration varies widely each year - in years of little rain very few wildebeest cross the Mara River into Kenya. Between July and October the wildebeest reside in the Mara. I recommend Serena Lodge, Governor's Main Camp, Little Governor’s Camp, and Bataluer Camp.

November: The arrival of the short rains call the migration southward. During the short rains of November the wildebeest migration is best viewed from Klein’s Camp. Campsites in the Lobo area are best. As November ends the migration is making its way back to the southern Serengeti and early in the year they once again give birth. The circle of life is complete.

Common Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - river crossing herd masai mara migration
Common Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - river crossing herd masai mara migrationCommon Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - herd river crossing stress masai mara migrationCommon Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - herd river crossing masai maraCommon Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - river bank struggle masai maraCommon Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - migration rover crossing masai maraCommon Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - masai mara herd wildebeest morning sunriseCommon Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - masai mara herd widebeest morning sunriseCommon Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - calf struggle life river bank masai maraCommon Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) - detail male masai mara
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camera:NIKON D300
lens:Sigma 120-300 mm F2.8 APO EX DG IF HSM
extender:Sigma APO 2.0 EX DG
focal length:600 mm
exposure time:1/1000 s
stativ:pytlík s rýží/beanbag
location:Masai Mara, Kenya