Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Wildlife Calving Attracts Thousands

Seronera — THE whole world seems to be currently gathering in the Serengeti Plains where more than 1.5 million wildebeests are delivering new calves at the rate of 8,000 newborns per day.

Within less than a month, in this same month of February, a record-breaking total of 16,500 tourists, among them 5,800 domestic visitors, with more still coming, are filling the Serengeti plains targeting to witness the amazing wildebeests' calving season.

Also attending the wildebeests' mass "jungle reproduction" event are wildlife researchers and zoological scientists from all over the world.

"It is rather a spectacular sighting because this is the only place on earth where nearly two million large herbivores are "giving birth" at the same time and in unison, in what is known as "synchronized calving," explained Mr William Mwakilema the Conservator at the Serengeti National Park.

One of the visitors, Mr Robert Joseph, who hails from Belgium, said what he has seen was astounding and despite the pictures taken, many people back home may not exactly believe when he recounts the story to them.

The on-going wildebeests' calving season is expected to progress for the next six weeks at the end of which, nearly 500,000 young calves will be born into the country's second largest National Park.

Serengeti covers 14,763 square kilometres. Even more enthralling, according to other tourists who are witnessing the event, is the fact that the animals do not even have to lie down but can deliver their babies just as they move about.

Also, once the calves drop from the wombs, it only takes two or three minutes before they start hopping about, running after their mothers. Due to that, even more visitors are landing in the Northern Tourist Circuit to get a piece of the adventure.

"Normally, February is a low tourism season but recording nearly 17,000 visitors in just one month, just goes to show how the world's and only synchronized calving is creating great interest globally," stated Mr Paschal Shelutete, the Public Relations Manager for the Tanzania National Parks.

According to Mr Godson Kimaro the Serengeti Senior Park Warden, the plains attract over 350,000 tourists every year and peak tourism season is usually between the months of June and September when the north-bound great migration of the same ungulates usually takes place.

But most of the half-a-million newborn wildebeest calves may not survive the jungle full of hyenas numbering 7,500, lions at 3,000 and leopards, not to mention marauding wild dogs and cheetahs, all of which should be happy to chew the soft and tender bones of the young herbivores.

Mr Seth Mihayo the Tourism Conservator at SENAPA pointed out that half of the newborn wildebeests are likely to die from predator attacks, drowning into the giant Mara River or simply succumb to the hostile elements that accompany the ungulates 1,000 kilometres' annual migration.

"But it is the way of mother nature balancing the ecosystem because the 2010 animals census indicated that there were 1.5 million wildebeests, which means an increase of 500,000 more ungulates every year could overwhelm the park, therefore natural selection trims the lot to manageable population," explained Mr Mihayo.

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