Migration is a very interesting phenomenon, and the distances that birds, animals, butterflies and fish can cover in this process is stunning and holds surprises. A recent study, done in Africa, has identified the longest known terrestrial cross-country migration in Africa.

The researchers have identified large numbers of zebras covering nearly 500 km in a round trip from Chobe river in Namibia to Botswana’s Nxai Pan National park..

In a paper published recently in Oryx, members of WWF and Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) in collaboration with Elephants Without Borders, a conservationist group, have described this study in detail. Using GPS collars to track eight adult Plains Zebras, the group monitored their travel between the above-mentioned destinations, over a period of two years.

Naturally, the animals were not restricted by national borders. During the period they were observed, the zebras travelled a distance equivalent to that between Delhi and Jaipur and back, crossing Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola.

Of course, several species are known for their long-distance migrations, such as monarch butterflies, wildebeest and humpback whales. But coming at a time when many migratory patterns have been extinguished or are being threatened by human interventions, this study is important in the study of animal behaviour and conservation.

The researchers believe that the discovery of this behaviour at a time when land is dominated by humans only underlines the need for efforts in conservation.

Not just that, this also brings to the fore the importance of the fact that animals do not necessarily confine their wanderings to country borders and, therefore, there is a need for conservation efforts to take on a cross-country approach.

Though this phenomenon has been observed over a period of two years, prolonged research will be needed to show that this migration has a fixed annual pattern. This also leaves open the question of how this behaviour is conveyed to successive generations — whether it is genetically coded or transmitted from parent to child.

More In: Science | Sci-Tech