Movement of Animals Botswana Wildlife Guide

Buffalo herd crossing Vumbura Plains. Dana AllenBuffalo herd crossing Vumbura Plains
Historically animals moved to where conditions were favourable, unhindered by fences and human development. They moved according to the availability of food and water, competition from other species as in predators, or, as in the case of migratory birds, to follow the summer season. Many of these movements, or migrations, once controlled by the seasons and the struggle for survival, are now controlled by humans...

By Leigh Kemp

Droughts and migrations

Climatic conditions such as drought and floods play an important role in animal movements. Drought causes a panic movement in the frantic search for water, resulting in unusual behavioral traits to surface in animals.
When water is found observations of some animals controlling the supply by keeping others away have been made. Elephant are generally the culprits in this story. The only major land migration in Africa today is the Wildebeest migration between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya where the animals are constantly on the move except for periods when the water and grass is sufficient for a short stay.Wildebeest in southern Africa, once also part of huge migrations, are now area specific with only local migrations to and from food and water. This situation is due to the construction of fences across migration routes.
There are still a few notable small migrations in other parts of Africa such as the Zebra migrations of northern Botswana - although not in the capacity of yesteryear. Traditional migratory animals are now found in small groups in game reserves and national parks, having adapted to a non-migratory existence except for local movement to food and water within their areas.
Fire plays a role in animal movements by forcing territorial animals off their ranges when the food source is burnt. With the new growth a movement into the area by numerous species will occur.

Local seasonal movements

Movements between water sources - these generally occur in the managed reserves and wildlife areas and are in relation to the availability of water and food.
During the dry season
there is a concentration of animals around the permanent water sources which can result in the denuding of food sources in the area.At the onset of the rainy season the animals disperse as seasonal pans fill up allowing for a wider range for animals - but as the water dries up the move back to the permanent water resumes. This has become the rhythm of the wilderness today and the animals have adapted their behaviour to this.
At the onset of the rainy season the animals disperse as seasonal pans fill up allowing for a wider range for animals - but as the water dries up the move back to the permanent water resumes. This has become the rhythm of the wilderness today and the animals have adapted their behaviour to this.

Animal movement through competition

Animals move to new areas due to competition from other species. This movement is prominent in predators where the competition for food is high. Cheetahs will move out of an area with a high population of Lion and Hyena as the latter two species are responsible for stealing more Cheetah carcasses than any other predator.

Nomadism

This is generally found in cats when individuals are chased out of a pride or group - usually males - at sexual maturity and then move about hunting for themselves, at times forming coalitions with other nomads.
As they are always on other males' territories they are on the move a great deal, avoiding the dominant males until they are strong enough to challenge for their own territory.Coalitions in Lions are usually brothers that have been chased from the pride at the same time, but can be unrelated males. A coalition ensures more success in hunting and a better chance of taking over a pride and territory.
There was a general view in the past that male Lions were lazy and allowed the females to do the hunting for them and, although this may true to some extent when they are in charge of a pride, it is a generalization. Males do help females hunt on occasion and when they are nomads they have to hunt and scavenge for themselves.

Translocation

Although not a 'natural phenomenon' it is nevertheless important in that it affects animal behaviour in many ways - this modern day trend is where animals are physically moved from one area to another. The movement is either to re-introduce species into areas where they previously occurred or introduce them into conserved areas where the species did not occur.In northern Botswana a recent translocation of Black and White Rhino occurred in the northern section of Chief's Island in the Okavango. These rhino bred successfully and a movement occurred in all directions with the furthest recorded almost 200 km away from where they were released.
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