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Program Great Migrations

  • Wildebeest, also called gnus, are members of the antelope family. They are related to oryxes and gazelles. A wildebeest can grow to 2.4 meters (8 feet) in length, and weigh up to 270 kilograms (600 pounds).

    Wildebeest typically inhabit the Serengeti plains of southeastern Africa. For most of their lives, wildebeest graze in the grassy savannas and open woodlands of the plains, which straddle the nations of Tanzania and Kenya.

    More than 1.5 million wildebeest migrate in an enormous loop every year. The annual migration northwest, at the end of the rainy season (usually in May or June) is recognized as one of the "Seven Wonders of the Natural World."

    The search for greener pastures does not come without danger. Its migration route crosses many rivers, most filled with giant Nile crocodiles.

    1. What predators do wildebeest face in the Mara River?

      Wildebeest face hungry crocodiles in the Mara River.

    2. Where does this wildebeest migration take place?

      This species of wildebeest migrates in a loop around Tanzania and Kenya. This large area of Africa is often referred to as the Great Rift Valley.

    3. How many wildebeest complete the migration loop? How many zebras?

      Every year, more than one million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras complete this 480-kilometer (300-mile) migration loop.

    4. What drives wildebeest to migrate?

      The seasonal rains and the search for green grass drive wildebeest to migrate.

    5. Wildebeest face fearsome crocodiles as they cross what river?

      Wildebeest must cross the Mara River, filled with crocodiles, on their migration.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    animal migration Noun

    process where a community of animals leaves a habitat for part of the year or part of their lives, and moves to habitats that are more hospitable.

    antelope Noun

    grazing mammal.

    crocodile Noun

    reptile native to parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.

    graze Verb

    to feed on grass, usually over a wide pasture.

    inhabit Verb

    to live in a specific place.

    migration Noun

    movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.

    pasture Noun

    type of agricultural land used for grazing livestock.

    predator Noun

    animal that hunts other animals for food.

    rainy season Noun

    time of year when most of the rain in a region falls.

    river Noun

    large stream of flowing fresh water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: river
    savanna Noun

    type of tropical grassland with scattered trees.

    seasonal Adjective

    likely to change with the seasons.

    Serengeti plains Noun

    grassland of the Serengeti ecosystem of Kenya and Tanzania.

    wildebeest Noun

    type of antelope native to Africa. Also called a gnu.

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