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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 22: Wildebeests in Ngorongoro Crater

Whatever you can say about the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania: it's the place to make some - close up - photos that were missing in your photo collection. A confined area; the animals - except some elephant bulls - never leave the crater. Vast plains with few trees. Good overview. But how wild is the Ngorongoro Crater? To make an analogy: comparing Selous Game Reserve (very wild) to Ngorongoro Crater is like comparing Ngorongoro Crater to your local Safari zoo or park (like the Dutch Safaripark Beekse Bergen). Ngorongoro Crater is close to a zoo. The animals are so used to the queues of 4x4 vehicles that they are not scared anymore. Hyena's at 2 meter from the road. A wildebeest lying on the road and not moving away... The closest I got with a 4x4 from any wildebeests in Selous Game Reserve was maybe 40 to 60 meters. They ran off at that point. Here it was just 2 meters. Also, in Selous there is a different subspecies of wildebeest; the Nyassaland Wildebeest or Johnston's Wildebeest.

Nevertheless, the big herds make great pictures. The Western White-bearded Wildebeest of Ngorongoro is the same subspecies that is renown from the Great Migration in the Serengeti - Maasai Mara ecosystem. And for the Dutchies: Gnoe is the proper Dutch word, secondary it's Wildebeest. The English call it Wildebeest and occasionally Gnu. So we're talking about the Westelijke Witbaardgnoe here. What you see in Maasai Mara with the Great Migration is what is happening in Ngorongoro as well: trains of wildebeests. They prefer to walk in line, behind each other. On fixed trails. What sometimes may look like car tracks on the grass on some photos, is actually the wildebeest trail. Cars can't go offroad in Ngorongoro. Just have a look at my photos of Western White-bearded Wildebeests in Ngorongoro Crater if you want to see more.

And isn't the Western White-bearded Wildebeest the subspecies with the most poetic name? Great alliterations and vowel rhyme :-) Just say it out loud: Western White-bearded Wildebeest. You can make beautiful poems with it. Or do a five minute attempt:

Behold the Western White-bearded Wildebeest
Lives its livestocky life not as a mild feast
But the herd thinks of the carnivorous sorrows later
Already treading tomorrow's trails of Ngorongoro Crater

It's that Oscar Wilde's deceased, otherwise he'd write about this Wildebeest :P
Enough about poetry, on with photography.

The crater rim, blue skies, sunshine and a docile herd of wildebeests make great pictures, but does not give you the true 'wild' and safari feeling. If you like that, go to Selous Game Reserve for an off road and wild adventure. But don't expect to be approaching any wildlife as close as in Ngorongoro Crater.

For those who like the biological details:
Click a link and you'll go to the Flickr photo page for that rank in the biological classification. Or have a look in the 'Find wildlife photos' menu item on the left.

Phylum: Chordata; Vertebrates / Gewervelden
Class: Mammalia; Mammals / Zoogdieren
Order: Artiodactyla; Even-toed Ungulates / Evenhoevigen
Suborder: Cetruminantia; Ruminants, Whales and Hippos / Herkauwers, Walvissen en Nijlpaarden
Infraorder: Pecora; Ruminants / Herkauwers
Family: Bovidae; Bovids; Antelopes, Gazelles, Buffalos, Sheep, Cattle / Holhoornigen; Antilopen, Gazelles, Buffels, Schapen, Runderen
Subfamily: Alcelaphinae; Wildebeests, Hartebeests, Topis / Koeantilopen
Genus: Connochaetes; Wildebeests / Gnoes
Species: Connochaetes taurinus; Common Wildebeest / Gewone Gnoe
* Subspecies: Connochaetes taurinus johnstoni; Nyassaland Wildebeest, Johnston's Wildebeest or Nyassa Gnu / Mozambiquegnoe
* Subspecies: Connochaetes taurinus mearnsi; Western White-bearded Wildebeest / Westelijke Witbaardgnoe