REINEKE FORD   ||   NEWS UPDATES

Zebras make longest trek in Africa, research says

Comment: Off

In this undated handout photo supplied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), zebra run on a plain in northern Botswana. Thousands of zebra were monitored during a 500 kilometers (300 miles) roundtrip journey, a newly discovered trek that wildlife experts say reaches farther than any other known land migration in Africa. The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures, a conservation specialist said. (AP Photo/HO-World Wildlife Fund International – Martin Harvey) MANDATORY CREDIT

In this undated handout photo supplied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), zebra run on a plain in northern Botswana. Thousands of zebra were monitored during a 500 kilometers (300 miles) roundtrip journey, a newly discovered trek that wildlife experts say reaches farther than any other known land migration in Africa. The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures, a conservation specialist said. (AP Photo/HO-World Wildlife Fund International – Martin Harvey) MANDATORY CREDIT

In this undated handout photo supplied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), zebra are seen at a watering hole in northern Namibia. Thousands of zebra were monitored during a 500 kilometers (300 miles) roundtrip journey, a newly discovered trek that wildlife experts say reaches farther than any other known land migration in Africa. The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures, a conservation specialist said. (AP Photo/HO-World Wildlife Fund International – Martin Harvey) MANDATORY CREDIT

In this undated handout photo supplied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), zebra stampede at a watering hole in northern Namibia. Thousands of zebra were monitored during a 500 kilometers (300 miles) roundtrip journey, a newly discovered trek that wildlife experts say reaches farther than any other known land migration in Africa. The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures, a conservation specialist said. (AP Photo/HO-World Wildlife Fund International – Martin Harvey) MANDATORY CREDIT

In this undated handout photo supplied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a zebra and calf are seen at a watering hole in northern Namibia. Thousands of zebra were monitored during a 500 kilometers (300 miles) roundtrip journey, a newly discovered trek that wildlife experts say reaches farther than any other known land migration in Africa. The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures, a conservation specialist said. (AP Photo/HO-World Wildlife Fund International – Martin Harvey) MANDATORY CREDIT

In this undated handout photo supplied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), zebra and a calf are seen at a watering hole in northern Botswana. Thousands of zebra were monitored during a 500 kilometers (300 miles) roundtrip journey, a newly discovered trek that wildlife experts say reaches farther than any other known land migration in Africa. The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures, a conservation specialist said. (AP Photo/HO-World Wildlife Fund International – Martin Harvey) MANDATORY CREDIT

Buy AP Photo Reprints

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — At a time when mankind’s encroachment on habitats is increasingly leading species to extinction, scientists have discovered a mass migration of animals in Africa that reaches farther than any other documented on the continent.

The journey made by about 2,000 zebra who traveled between Namibia and Botswana, two countries in a sparsely populated part of southern Africa, was discovered by wildlife experts only after some of the zebras were collared with tracking devices.

The newfound migration is a rare bright spot at a time when mass movements of wildlife are disappearing because of fencing, land occupation and other human pressures. Species of plants and animals around the planet are being wiped out at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans arrived on the scene, said a separate study published Thursday by the journal Science.

The previously unheralded trek occurs within the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which is the size of Sweden and encompasses national parks in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola.

“It goes to show us that nature still has some surprises,” said Robin Naidoo, senior conservation scientist at the Washington-based World Wildlife Fund that led the two-year study on the migration. He said the main reason that the migration was not detected earlier was because it was impossible to know where the animals were going without GPS tracking technology, which has become more available and affordable in the last two decades.

The zebra odyssey encompasses a roundtrip journey of 500 kilometers (300 miles), starting in floodplains near the Namibia-Botswana border at the beginning of the wet season. It follows a route across the Chobe River and ends at the seasonally full waterholes and nutritional grass of Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana. The zebras spend about 10 weeks there before heading back.

Local residents and conservationists knew the zebras left the Chobe River floodplains and returned months later in the dry season, but they didn’t know where the animals went.

It wasn’t until researchers put satellite tracking collars on eight zebras and monitored their movements in late 2012 and 2013 that the migration was discovered. The findings were published this week in the conservation journal Oryx.

“This is the longest known land migration in Africa, in terms of distance between endpoints,” Naidoo said.

To get the data in a “military-style operation,” researchers fired tranquilizer darts at the zebras from a helicopter, landed and affixed GPS collars, Naidoo said in an interview from Vancouver, Canada, where he is an adjunct professor specializing

Comments

comments

About the Author