Big Wildebeest Migration Good Sign for Post-War Angola
JOHANNESBURG Thousands of wildebeest are currently making their way to Angola from Zambia in a little-known and expanding migration that is a sign of renewal for the war-ravaged African country.
"There are about 30,000 wildebeest taking part in the migration now, up from 20,000 just two years ago," said University of Pretoria researcher Tim Boote.
"I myself have seen herds of up to 4,000. It is the second biggest wildebeest migration after the one in the Serengeti," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
He was referring to the famed migration on the vast grasslands of east Africa which involves more than a million wildebeest, an ungainly-looking antelope also known as a gnu.
While the southern African migration is a far distant second it is said to be spectacular and given its remote location is viewed by very few tourists.
It is another sign that wildlife survived Angola's civil war and is thriving in the post-conflict period.
"It is like nature reasserting itself. ... I think it is a really positive sign for Angola," said Boote.
Three decades of savage conflict in Angola ended four years ago and scientists have been delighted with some of the findings they have since made in the huge southwest African country.
These have included sightings of the giant sable, a striking antelope with massive horns which some experts feared may have been hunted to extinction during the fighting, as well as the "rediscovery" of several species of endemic birds.
But the country's shattered infrastructure and low population density mean that its wild still has some secrets.
"As to where they go in Angola we are not certain yet," said Boote.
"A project last year tried to collar wildebeest to see where they went but they were all killed by hyenas in Zambia when they were heading out towards Angola," he said.
In western Zambia more is known about their movements. The animals return from Angola when the summer rains commence in November, filling up the water holes of Zambia's Liuwa National Park.