Afterbirth Trouble

Making my way along the foot of Ngorongoro Mountain and some few miles out on the plains, I came across a line of six or seven foot high poles set about fifty feet from each other. Each pole had shred of old gunnysack or cloth tied to the top. These are to deflect the wildebeest herds so that the migratory herds of gnus don’t move into the grazing of the Maasai herds.

Every year, at the beginning of the long rains, wildebeest in their thousands migrate from the Western Serengeti to the East to Ngorongoro. Early on, in the wet, they drop many hundreds of calves and of course leave the “afterbirths” lying on the ground. Maasai cattle just love those tasty morsels and swallow them down whenever they come across one.

Herein lies the problem and the reason for the line of flapping cloth. Maasai say that the afterbirths of the wildebeest make their cattle sick and can even cause death. The hope is that the waving fluttering strips will turn those birthing gnus back out onto the plains. Most years and in most places, the Maasai simply move out of the path of the wildebeest during calving season.

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