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Tag Archives: Wildebeest
The Great Wildebeest Migration, is one of the most impressive events in the natural world, whereas more than two million animals migrate back and forth from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya in order to find fresh grass to eat. On their trek their path is cut several times by rivers. Watching the frantic herds crossing can be very spectacular; there are often scenes of great panic and confusion. The wildebeest fear the water and the creatures that may hide in or near it. Sometimes tens of thousands gather and wait to cross and for no apparent reason, they turn and wander away from the water’s edge. Other times herds may cross back and forth, because they see others of their kind either in the process of crossing the river or grazing on the lush grass on the far side. Hence a lot of people call them “bewildered beest”.
Squack is more than a little chubby creature on a key chain. We gave him his name to honor Squack Evans, a great safari guide. The orange puppet in the book was designed as a mix of different animals, with spots in his fur from a hyena, he has the scruffy manes of a young lion, a bear belly, monkey hands and sticky-out ears. I felted him around a frame with real joints, which means he can be modeled into different poses. For the illustrations he was photographed. In the book Tata&Squack the Big Journey, he becomes Tata’s friend. Her parents are researchers, who studied the migration of the Wildebeest in the Serengeti. Tata picked Squack from a basket full of toys on her flight back home. Squack turns out to be magical and together with her new friend she goes back to Africa. They join Moyo, the wildebeest called “heart”, on an adventurous hunt for the “watertreasure”. They learn why two million animals follow the rain, year after year and how to survive lions and crocodiles along the way. In their next adventure Tata&Squack will meet a royal elephant and learn more about these special animals. The new book will be published in 2014.
“Squack, look, am I dreaming, that must be the Serengeti Highway!” “What do you mean, Tata, are they building a highway right through the Serengeti? How are the animals going to migrate? They will die if they do not have enough fresh grass and water.” “Well, yes, but animals do not count as much as people and money. Politicians have been talking about that road for years. They are also discussing a road around the national park, which would be better, because more people live there, who could use the road. I hope this is all a bad dream, let’s try to STOP the Serengeti Highway, while we still can!
A few months on the fertile volcanic soil near the Ngorongoro Crater have made the wildebeest healthy and strong. They have moved on towards the Grumeti river. By now temperatures are rising and dust filles the air. Feeling good, the males want to show off their strength and court the females. Hoping to win a girl-gnu for their harem, the wildebeest “flirt” by grunting and jumping wildly, leaving behind a seductive scent. Due to the migration, the wildebeest do not form a permanent bond with a partner. During the mating season, called rut, the male wildebeest establish temporary territories. These small territories are about 3000 square meters, with up to 300 territories in a square kilometre. The males defend these from other males, while trying to attract females that are ready to mate. The mating season usually occurs between May and July. Gestation is about 8 to 9 months, therefore, birthing will take place between January and March, at the start of the wet season. The wildebeest males are grumpy and seriously hilarious at times of mating.
Wir alle kennen die Bilder von den enormen Gnuherden, Zebras und Antilopen die durch die Serengeti ziehen, Flüsse durchqueren und am Fuße des Ngorongoro Kraters ihre Jungen zur Welt bringen. Die Migration ist ein gigantisches Naturschauspiel, was von vielen Filmemachern aufgegriffen wird. Gerade lief in der ARD eine Dokumentation aus der Reihe Erlebnis Erde mit atemberaubenden Bilder von der Serengeti.
Jetzt gibt es das erste Kinderbuch, welches die erstaunliche Geschichte dieser Wanderung erzählt. Tata&Squack suchen mit den Tieren zusammen nach dem „Wasserschatz“, der Grund weswegen jedes Jahr fast 2 Millionen Tiere diese Große Reise unternehmen. Das Buch beschreibt auf phantastisch-realistische Weise einen der auffälligsten Tierzüge der Welt. Eine Geschichte von Freundschaft, Abenteuer und Natur, packend in Wort und Bild.
Do animals show characteristics of human beings, like compassion, love, nurturing and protectiveness? How can mother animals recognize their young ones and how does a young wildebeest manage not to lose it’s mother, while there are thousands of other wildebeest around? The calves need their mother’s constant attention and therefore close contact is essential. The mother animal uses her four senses to recognize her young one, smell, sound, touch and sight. When the Wildebeest calf is born the mama will lick her new-born and within minutes the calf will be on its feet. It will try to drink, but the mother may move away at this point, which will encourage the calf to follow closely. The imprinting process starts with the first successful suckling. The mother will stay with her calf for the first few days, for the calf to be imprinted on her successfully. Eventually each mother will recognize her own calf by the voice and the scent. Mothers and calves then group into nursery herds, to give the mothers a chance to graze.
The illustrations in Tata&Squack, The BIg Journey are a mix of photographs, drawings and collages. The photographs for the illustrations were taken in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and in the Masai Mara in Kenya. A lot of the wildebeest, especially Moyo, are ink drawings. To set him apart a bit, Moyo is slightly bigger and sturdier than the average wildebeest. I had a hard time with the heart in his face, which gave him his name, because I did not want to make it too obvious, but still recognizable. Another wildebeest, which can be seen throughout the book does not have an official name, but I called him “Zottel”. He is a bit of a scrawny, sad-looking wildebeest. He seems to be standing around a lot, looking, something wildebeest are very good at. All the drawings were scanned and then assembled, layer for layer in Photoshop, enabling me to change the composition around to fit into the layout.
Normally rain is not what you wish for, when you are on a holiday. But in our case it was more than welcome. The area where the wildebeest prefer to have their young, on the foot of the Ngorongoro Crater, had been unusually dry for the time of the year. Therefor the big herds had wandered off to the central Serengeti, to find permanent water sources. The calving had stopped, awaiting the rain. Only a few days before we arrived, clouds began to build. The wildebeests, who follow the rain, began to stream back to the fertile grounds, which nourish the grass they need to gather strength after birthing and to feed their young. So there we were at the right time, at the right place, to see the calves and for the calving to continue …
We climb on Moyo’s back and hold on to his tangled manes. A dusty smell reaches our noses. “Great ride, Moyo.” Rocking softly on Moyo’s back, we watch the long queue of chocolate brown wildebeest, caramel coloured antelopes and black and white zebras. Shading my eyes with one hand, I ask Moyo: “Where are we heading?” “We are on our way to my favourite place, over there, near the mountains at the foot of the Ngorongoro crater. Every year we come back to these fertile grounds. Near all the large and small wonders of Africa living in the Ngorongoro Crater our own calves find their way into the world.” Every year same place, same time. It makes the Great Migration of the Wildebeest more than impressive, a wonder itself.
Captain Squack searches the “wide land” with his binoculars, looking for the Green Treasure. Rain makes the grass green and juicy, a treasure for the Wildebeest. Looking for this “Green Treasure” by following the sweet earthy smell of rain, the Wildebeest walk the same circle every year. „This migration circle is a circle of life for the Wildebeest“, Tata explains to the adventurous captain Squack. But the real treasure is not the green grass, but the water. Water makes the grass grow and fills the rivers and waterholes”. The Wildebeest chase the rain to survive in the Serengeti. Juicy green grass makes the Wildebeest healthy and strong so they can survive times of dryness in the “wide land”. The continuous nibbling by the herd, makes the grass grow more dense and lush. Their never-ending trampling flattens the grass, protecting it from catching fire in the heat of the African sun. Even their droppings are important, they fertilize the soil. Chasing the water treasure is chasing after life itself, important for all creatures living in the Serengeti-Mara eco-system.