zebra migration
May 27, 2014

Longest Migration Through Africa Detailed In New Study

Gerard LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

By using GPS collars attached to eight adult zebras, researchers from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) in Namibia have discovered and documented the longest-known terrestrial migration of wildlife in Africa.

According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) statement, several thousand zebra were documented migrating a distance of over 300 miles.

Also involved with the research was Elephants Without Borders (EWB) and Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks.

The researchers tracked the zebras for two consecutive years as they moved to and from the Chobe River in Namibia and the Nxai Pan National Park in Botswana. The distance between the two regions is 150 miles in a straight-line, resulting in a 300 mile round trip. This newly discovered wildlife migration in Namibia and Botswana - the longest in Africa - is detailed in a new study published today in the journal Oryx.

The migration of today’s zebras in other parts of Africa are hindered by man-made structures such as fences. Other migratory species in all parts of the world are also disrupted by barriers constructed by man.

“This unexpected discovery of endurance in an age dominated by humans, where we think we know most everything about the natural world, underscores the importance of continued science and research for conservation,” said Dr. Robin Naidoo, a senior conservation scientist at WWF.

The observation of the migration was done entirely within the 109 million acre Kavango Zamezi Transfontier Conservation Area (KAZA), which is the world’s largest conservation region. It spans across Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola. The KAZA region demonstrates the need for large scale conservation areas for the preservation of other terrestrial wildlife migrations around the world.

“The findings of this study emphasize the importance of trans-frontier conservation areas in conservation of the greater landscape. This study has played a crucial role in helping determine a key wildlife corridor in KAZA,” said Pierre Du Preez, Chief Conservation Scientist at MET in Namibia.

“At a time when conservation news is inherently rather negative, the discovery of this unknown natural phenomenon should resonate with people around the world. The government’s commitment to secure key migratory corridors serves to underpin the growing wildlife tourism industry. We plan to continue monitoring the migration to try and conserve such increasingly rare natural events,” added Dr. Mike Chase, the founder of EWB.

The study also implicates the need for further research into migratory activity to see and confirm that this is a continual migration and whether this behavior is genetically passed down from mothers to offspring.