This year, the annual zebra migration, the second largest migration of zebra in Africa, has been disrupted by a few spots of rain in late September and early October.
The annual zebra migration in this dry region of Botswana takes place when the rains disappear and the water sources in the salt pans and surrounding regions dry up, forcing the zebra to go out in search of water. This search takes them to the banks of the great Boteti River on the western boundary of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, where they find a haven in the supply of fresh water. Even when this famed river is dry, there are several permanent water holes along its banks for the zebra to quench their thirst.
The zebras spend their days drinking from the river banks and then head back into the shrubbery in-land to feed and back to the river once again. This continues throughout the dry season and as the months go by, the walk from the river back to the food sources gets further and further. The animals thus spend more time travelling in between the two and grow increasingly weak, making for easy pickings for the lurking predators that set up shop under large trees near the regular paths of these desperate animals. This migration continues until the first rains of the season, at which point the zebra herds disperse between the vast desert region and the Boteti River to enjoy the lush vegetation and readily available water.
However, much to the dismay of the zebra, this is not always the case, as happened this year when the first ‘rains’ of the season were nothing more than a few short showers that wet the soil underneath their feet. Following their natural instincts, the zebras headed off and left the Boteti River behind only to find that the rains had brought no new life and had stopped subsequently. With no food and no constant water, the zebras were forced to turn tail and head for the trusted source of Boteti River valley once again. Many would not make the trip back as they had exhausted themselves on their quest away from the river. For the zebras that did make it back, the sweet feeling of quenching their thirst was a lifesaving and glorious moment. On hand to witness this phenomenon was our Director and avid wildlife enthusiast, Walter Smith, who told this story of Mayhem in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park.