CBS' 60 Minutes Spotlights Kenya's Wildebeest Migration

Huntington Beach, CA (PressExposure) October 06, 2009 -- If you could go just one place, anywhere on the planet, to see the most spectacular wildlife, you'd want to head east to catch a sight that comes around every year, but only for a short time.

It's called the "great migration," an endless march of life, and death and rebirth for millions of animals. When you see it, you might agree this is one of the greatest shows on Earth.

If you are at all interested in East Africa or its wildlife or safari travel, you are familiar with the migration - and the greatest show on Earth hyperbole that usually accompanies it. But Pelley included a sour note, too, reminding us of the precariousness of natural spectacles such as the wildebeest migration:

We thought you should see it now, because there's no guarantee that it'll be around forever. The wildebeest migration has been underway for thousands of years, having survived droughts, volcanoes, the arrival of Maasai herdsmen, the arrival of Europeans, a devastating rinderpest epidemic and the steady encroachment of agriculture and civilization. Pelley's story introduced his audience to a new threat - global climate change - that may at last prove the undoing of East Africa's wildebeest migration.

The wildebeest migration is driven by water and grass. As the southern Serengeti dries out in spring, the wildebeest - a million and a half of them, joined by two hundred thousand zebras - move north to Kenya and the Mara Triangle, which is watered by the Mara River. During the dry season, the Mara and its tributaries are the only source of water in the region. The headwaters of the Mara River lie in Kenya's Mau Forest - a dense equatorial rain forest that traps rainwater and regulates its release into the river ("like a sponge," says Pelley). A growing population in and around the Mau Forest, combined with irresponsible land use practices and delicate politics, have led to deforestation of vast swaths of forest. Loss of forest canopy has hindered the forest's ability to attract rainfall and hold it.

This has led to erratic - and substantially reduced - flows in the Mara River. All of that eventually reaches downs tream to the Mara Triangle and the grasses that grow there and the animals that depend on both water and grasses to survive.

What would happen, correspondent Pelley asked Colorado State scientist Robin Reid, if the Mara River stopped flowing?

If the river were to dry up completely, okay, in the very first week after it dried up we'd lose about 400,000 animals that would die.

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Press Release Submitted On: October 06, 2009 at 12:50 am
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