Dangerous journey across the Serengeti is being streamed worldwide.
For the first time ever, the annual migration of the African wildebeest will be streamed online for all to view, instead of the few who can manage to make the trip to the event in person.
According to an account on abc.net.au.com, viewers on the streaming app Periscope and also on YouTube will be able to look in on the migration for 10 to 20 minutes per day, during the days from September 29 through October 5.
The migration will be broadcast from the Maasai Mara, a large 583-square-mile game reserve in Narok County, Kenya. The reserve takes its name from the older inhabitants of the area, the Maasai people, and Mara, the word for “spottted” in the native Maa language spoken by the Maasai, which is the way the land was described as seen from a distance, due to clumps of trees and brush.
Animal experts will be commenting on the migration during the video stream, and will be taking questions from viewers, answering them in real time. HerdTracker, a web-app which plots the precise location of the wildebeest migration in real time, according to their Facebook page, will be manning the broadcast.
The annual wildebeest migration is the largest terrestrial migration on the planet and occurs from June through October each year. The animals follow the grazing areas north from the southern plains in Tanzania through the Serengeti and into Kenya’s Maasai Mara. The epic journey covers some 1,200 miles across the region.
It has been estimated that as many as 1 million wildebeests, and some 200,000 zebras and gazelle make the trek, along with eland and impala. The event is on Africa’s Seven Natural Wonders list.
Navigating the Serengeti includes the crossing of the crocodile-infested waters of the Mara River by the wildebeests, risking their lives to get to the grazing areas on the other side. Once across, they will be in an area that has one of the most dense lion concentrations in the world, adding even more risk to the journey.
Even the migration itself can turn deadly for the animals. A recent stampede killed thousands of wildebeests and was documented on HerdTracker, which described the event as “nature taking its course.”
Herdtracker’s Andre Van Kets said, “That’s what we are trying to do, show it’s not just a Disney moment. This is nature at work. He also added, “It’s that Lion King moment brought to life.”
HerdTracker is one of two groups using Periscope to stream live from Africa. In 2014, the group created an app that follows the migration in real time, plotting the precise location on a Google map, and using a timeline similar to Twitter.
The company uses all sorts of personnel to plot the progress of the migration, including pilots, safari guides and park rangers, and lodges located in the Maasai Mara.
Carel Verhoef, founder of HerdTracker, said, “It’s a bit like trying to find a hundred guys in red t-shirts in Manhattan. It’s very hard because in the bigger scheme of things there are just too many people and too many things going on.”
Verhoef adds, “If you are keeping an eye on your hundred red t-shirts through the year it makes it easier, and that’s in essence a very simplified version of what HerdTracker is all about. We just keep a tab on these things every day and it makes it a lot easier to find them the next day.”
Many people who have traveled to Africa to witness the migration in person have been disappointed the find they missed the migration due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Dry conditions in the southern Serengeti are the catalyst for the movement of the animals. The amount of rainfall usually determines where the animals will be at what time of the year, with the herds following the receding grazing areas northward.
A factor in the popularity of the event is that there is little human influence involved. It has been estimated that human impact on life in the Serengeti is less than 5 percent. Even after dealing with river crossings and conflicts with predators, animal experts are amazed at the wat the animals work together make to complete the trip.
It seems that nature has set forth its own set of rules to ensure the stability of the natural ecosystem.