An Evening with the Zebra

Zebra enjoying a dust-bath in the aftermath of local bushfires

A short cycle of seasons   

The fire season in the Grumeti Wildlife Reserve of the Serengeti experiences a very rapid transition from wet to dry season. This is because of the fact that on the equator in Africa two distinct wet seasons take place. These are the Long Rains, from which we have just emerged, and the Short Rains which typically occur between November and January. As a consequence the signature savannah woodland of the Grumeti Wildlife Reserve switches from verdant, humid and close to crisp, dry and windblown almost in a matter of weeks.      


One night the bush just erupted in flame

Perhaps the most notable fact of this change is the sudden arrival of the bushfires. These are hugely dramatic, especially at night, but they are grass fires in the main and do not inflict the kind of damage on the surrounding habitat as similar fires in North America or Australia tend to do.      

In fact the woodland savannah that characterises the Reserve is dependent on fire for the completion of the annual, or bi-annual cycle. These are fire created environments where the annual burn scars and shapes the landscape in a brutal but necessary cycle.      

Despite this the fires are tremendously dramatic, particularly at night. Have a look at this blog posting of the Grumeti Bushfires.      

Unexpected changes      

Meanwhile the change on the plains that the fires bring is quite unexpected. The antelope, far from avoiding the burned landscape, congregate on it, mainly to avoid predators, but also because the fire causes a rapid re-growth of pasture and they all respond very well to that.      

There is also a curious series of arrivals that take place. Obviously many little scavengers arrive to take advantage of all the fire victims such as snakes and tortoise that represent a protein bonanza, but strangely a huge influx of zebra also take place.      

In the last few weeks there have been literally thousands of these animals arriving in the Grumeti Wildlife Reserve. It would seem likely that they would find little to eat in the aftermath of the fires, but far from it. All day their strange call resonates over the the veld and they can be seen grazing on exposed herbs all day.      

Close encounter with the zebra      

And then suddenly this fellow appeared out of the dust...

A few days ago I was driving over the burned veld when I found myself mingling with a huge herd making their way towards the Grumeti River. I stopped the Land Rover and followed them on foot, taking many of the pictures you will see below 

They had no regard for me, although out of the dust a small herd of buffalo appeared which is always a source of concern. As this news story proves, they are by far the most dangerous animal in the bush. 

However this time they gave me a wide berth and I was able to get back to the truck without incident…or at least with not too much incident. I had a flat tire which needed changing right there among the wild residents of the plains.     

Just a another day in the Grumeti Wildlife Reserve…never a dull moment