Reference is made to Daily Nation of 23rd July, 2012 that is published in Kenya under the headline “Arson halts wildebeest migration”. It was published that migration to Kenya is being blocked following fire that was set by local communities that reside in the northern part of Serengeti Game Reserve (it is a National Park and not a game reserve). However, the Management for Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) is hereby refuting the published allegations for the following facts:
Annual calendar of migration
Usually wildebeest and zebra do cover 1000 km in their course of migration throughout the year. These migratory animals do spend very little time in Masai Mara which is almost two months of a year and the rest ten months the wildebeest do spend their time in Serengeti as it can be observed on the below scientifically proven migration calendar. These animals are too many (1.5 millions) and therefore cannot stay in one area, they must move in search of new pasture and exchanging males to avoid inbreeding. As per the annual migration calendar, it suffices to state that is not yet time of main migration to be in Masai Mara, the right time is September and October. Currently the Main migration is still on movement from Western towards Northern part of Serengeti.
What was intended to be published is what is known scientifically as Early Burning. The General Management Plan of Serengeti National Park has in place a Fire Management Plan which allows the practice of early burning. This is type of fire which is set early while grasses are still green is known as ‘early burning’. The fire is practiced for several reasons which include reducing number of destructive insect e.g. tsetse fly; is set to reduce amount of litter that can catalyze fire during dry season; also early burning do facilitate new forage for animals as some seeds can only germinate after been burnt and also when old grasses are burnt new one do germinates. In line with this, early burning was practiced in some parts of Northern zone namely as Wogakuria towards Nyamalumbwa plains. These areas were selected following high number of tsetse fly and large amount of litter. This excursion is being undertaken every year and has never affected phenomena of migration.
To recap the above, Tanzania National Parks wish to inform the public that the Wildebeest Migration has not been affected as claimed and that the time for the migration to cross in to the other part of Masai Mara per the migration calendar will be in September or October. Also what is happening in the northern part of Serengeti is Early Burning which has taken place in an area of not more than 0.5 square kilometers and which actually has no impact at all in wildlife movement patterns which has been practiced for years without affecting the migration which we are sure our neighbors in the other part of Serengeti who are also conservationists are aware of this.
Public Relations Manager
TANZANIA NATIONAL PARKS