Okavango-Makgadikgadi Zebra Migration Research

The Zebra Migration Research Project started in 2008. This project aims to increase our understanding of the second longest zebra migration in Africa.

The zebra migration was discovered unexpectedly during field work for Okavango Herbivore Research. A proportion of the GPS collared zebra migrated from the Okavango Delta at the onset of the rains. They travelled 290km to the Makgadikgadi grasslands to the south-east, joining the large herds of resident Makgadikgadi zebra and wildebeest. At the end of the wet season, once the last of the seasonal water holes dried up they walked back to the Okavango Delta. At a 580km round-trip this is the second longest intact zebra migration in Africa.

The migration is interesting for both its biology, terrestrial migrations are increasingly rare due to habitat fragmentation, and its implications for conservation biology across Africa, the migration could only recently have restarted due to its route being blocked by a veterinary cordon fence and is thus of interest in relation to wildlife corridor and Transfrontier parks.

The project has 4 specific aims.

1. Determine how the migratory route varies annually.

2. Estimate of the size of the migratory population.

3. Investigate what drives the migration, resources or predation and how energetic strategies vary between migratory and Okavango/Makgadikgadi resident zebra

4. Investigate the genetic independence of the three populations

Research is focussed on the Moremi Game Reserve, Makgadikgadi National Park and intermediary Wildlife Management Areas, the areas through which the migration passes

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Methodology

A number of methods are being used in this study. These include using GPS and VHF collars to keep track of specific animals. This allows us to track the migratory route, and how it varies with indiviudal and by year. Information is being gathered to increase our understanding of what drives the migration. This includes collecting detailed data on the quality of available food and water.

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Initial findings

This project is only in its initial stages. Findings will be posted here shortly.

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