A Case for the Wildebeest

According to the UNEP, wildebeest populations have declined in areas of southern and eastern Africa. PHOTO: Natural Habitat Adventures

The Great Migration of Serengeti National Park, designated a World Heritage Site, is legendary. The stars of this 1,200-mile odyssey are the wildebeest – 1.5 million of them – accompanied by 200,000 zebras. Every year is an endless journey for them, chasing the rains across 150,000 square miles of woodlands, hills and open plains. With them having firmly established their caliber as a species built literally for the long run, the migration spectacle should probably be the only space where the wildebeest find a mention. But conservation debates are hovering over these beasts – categorized as non-threatened by the IUCN – and looking at them as a keystone species.

Going by statistics, the wildebeests are in healthy number but their environment isn’t. There are the usual culprits: decreasing habitat, encroachments by humans, depleting water and food resources, fluctuations in weather patterns, and poaching. While we may not be looking at directly protecting the animals now, the focus is on immediately and pro-actively protecting their role as a keystone species, according to this article in The Huffington Post.

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