THE MARA RIVER CROSSING: LIFE AND DEATH FOLLOWING THE PATTERN

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THE MARA RIVER CROSSING: HOW LIFE AND DEATH FOLLOWED THE PATTERN

I’ve seen a lot of beautiful natural things, but the yearly crossing of the Mara River is one of the best. Every year, 1.5 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras move across the Serengeti and Maasai Mara areas. They do this when it rains, which gives the animals lots of food.

Since the beginning of time, this movement has happened every year.

It’s one of the main reasons people visit the Maasai Mara: to see one of the most amazing natural shows. Nature lovers are drawn to it, and the life and death it brings thrills a lot of people.

Calves are born in the fall and need to learn how to walk and get stronger quickly. They connect with their moms by smelling and seeing each other. That’s not different for zebras either. In fact, zebras have to remember the spots on their mothers or no one will feed them.

The plains are cut through by the Mara River, which bends and twists in many ways to make things hard for the herds that are moving. Wildebeest aren’t the smartest animals, but they are str ong and stubborn.

I watch as the group walks down a small hill to the water. Crocodiles smile naughtily from the banks; they may be full from an earlier attempt, but you can’t see any others.

Hippos come out from under the cool water and look confused at the wild animals running across the water, slipping on rocks, and past the bodies of their dead friends that are already piled up.

 

A calf watches its mother from close by. When her mother jumps into the river, she hops and runs into the water. Our calf comes next. One life in a million of these beasts makes a cloud of dust that covers the whole countryside, but this one life has my heart.

It’s hard for her to keep her nose above the water and her legs from sinking in the freezing cold. A bigger man loses his balance and falls. He floats down the river and heads for the hippos. Those big animals aren’t interested in these gnus, which is another word for wildebeests, and they finally move away from the noise.

The calf has no idea what’s going on around her and runs as fast as she can toward the shore. As she gets closer, a crocodile that was hiding attacks. The male that fell is suddenly caught in the jaws of this ancient animal. The croc’s strength quickly kills the male, whose body was already tired.

Our calf made it across safely, but there are still many survival tests to come. She will graze and get better for now. She’ll get used to it and learn. She will go to the next crossing with the rest of the herd in a single line.

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