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Science
SOUNDSCAPE: The Serengeti March
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Kimbea and her calf's challenging migration across the plains of Africa
Monday to Friday 3.45-4.00pm 3-7 November, 2003

A dramatic and evocative recreation of one of the greatest migration stories of them all; the epic journey of a female wildebeest and her calf from the Serengeti Plains of East Africa to the Masai Mara and back again, in one of the greatest mass movements of animals on the planet.

wildebeest
  The long nose of the wildebeest may help them detect the distant rains

Episode 3: Wednesday 5 November

In this episode, the wildebeest face perhaps the greatest challenge of the migration the treacherous Mara River, where crocodiles prepare for their annual feast as the herds attempt to cross the swollen river.

The programme opens in June as vast herds of wildebeest and zebra migrate from the woodlands near Lake Victoria towards Kenya’s Masai Mara. It takes several weeks to reach the Mara river. During this time, the river is tranquil : early morning, and a party of Egyptian geese call to one another as the first rays of the sun strike the river. Common sandpiper flit along the banks and grey hornbills call from a fig tree as a group of hippos clamber into the water for their morning bath.

By September, countless herds have streamed from the hillside of the northern Serengeti and amassed along the swollen Mara river. Overnight there has been rain: this is bad news for the wildebeest, a full river makes the crossing even more difficult as the animals can be swept down river by a strong current. And these dark waters conceal another danger crocodiles. Throughout the year animals cross the river, the crocodiles know the best crossing places and they are waiting.

Meanwhile, the wildebeest scramble about nervously on the bank-side. The crossing is wonderfully dramatic as hundreds of hooves plunge down the cliffs into the swirling waters. For many it’s a suicidal act. Kimbea scrambles down nervously and starts to make her way through the strong current when a crocodile seizes one of her legs in its jaws. The two animals thrash about in the water its stalemate. Eventually, Kimbea wrenches herself free and struggles to the bank: only to realise that Du-may isn’t with her but has been left behind.

Weak with exhaustion she returns to the infested waters and returns to her calf, before the two embark on the terrifying swim once again.

Three days later the final animal makes it to the far side. The sated crocodiles move slowly through a deluge of blood and flesh. There can be thousands of victims. Monitor lizards, jackals and hyenas scavenge amongst the meat on the bank side until there is no sign left of the carnage that took place.

After a couple of days, the river is clear of its debris and the waters are tranquil once again.

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