Wildebeest

Wildebeest

With ministers changing their minds and documents being published and then retracted, these are indeed times of confusion. In the bush, a group of wildebeest is known as confusion, and it is easy to see why when gazing at a wildebeest, which always to me to have a vague look of puzzlement etched on their faces. Wildebeest belong to the Bovidae family, the same family as cows, goats and sheep, with there being two species of wildebeest, namely the black wildebeest and the blue wildebeest. The black wildebeest is found predominantly in southern Africa, with a dark coat and strong horns that curve forward, while the blue wildebeest is found in northern and eastern Africa, with a blue sheen to its coat. Both males and females have horns.

Wildebeest, or “gnus”, are probably best known for the annual migrations in Kenya and Tanzania, where up to 1.5 million (blue) wildebeest, accompanied by approximately 200 000 zebra, brave crocodile-infested waters in search of greener pastures and freshwater supplies. Up to a quarter of a million wildebeest die during the migration, due to not only predation but also exhaustion, hunger and thirst. Interestingly, that confusion of wildebeest as they leap into waters in an apparent frenzy could actually be “swarm intelligence”, whereby they systematically explore and overcome the obstacle as one, so maybe there is a method to their madness.

Wildebeest are often found in open areas, being grazers, and have long, strong legs capable of propelling them at up to 80kph. This is necessary as they are favoured prey of lion, weighing up to 250 kilograms which means a good meal for a hungry pride of lion. At Thanda Safari, we only have the blue wildebeest, which, incidentally, is also depicted on the coat of arms for KwaZulu-Natal. Who would have “nu”?!

Love from Thanda Safari.

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