China and Africa share world’s greatest migrations

Monday, February 8th, 2021 00:00 |
Economic growth. Photo/Courtesy

Unbeknown to many around the world, there are two natural specters currently taking place in two different locations across the world.

Incidentally, these two phenomena occur generally around the same time, although one happens twice in a year. 

Starting January up to March, millions of Chinese will be travelling to and from their rural homes as they celebrate the Lunar New Year which falls on February 12. 

This is the year of the Ox. In 2018, it was estimated that Chinese travellers made around 3 billion trips during the 40-day Spring Festival period. No wonder it is called the largest annual human migration in the world. 

Thousands of kilometres away in Africa, millions of wildebeest have been migrating from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park to Kenya’s renowned Masai Mara Game Reserve, both in East Africa.

Dubbed the greatest show on earth, the annual ritual starts from January to March, and sees the migration of an estimated 1.7 million wildebeests cross over to Kenya for the calving season and in search of green pastures.

The animals then reverse the process from July to September when the Serengeti plains have plenty of rejuvenated grazing land.

For both species in this case, it is all about the homing instinct. After living, working and studying in various towns and cities almost the whole year without going back to see their parents, the Chinese undertake the annual ritual as a way of communing with their people at home.

Family is one of the main pillars of Chinese society - it contains the most important relationships for individuals and forms the foundations of all social organisation.

Both migrations are about the continuity of life through sacrifice and love. For the Chinese, travelling back home and returning to their urban workplaces and learning institutions after a few weeks is quite strenuous and expensive. 

But the call of both their immediate and extended families is too compelling to be ignored. The family bonding is priceless.

But due to increasing affluence in recent years, the migration has incorporated aspects of tourism, adding stress to transport system. 

The wildebeests pay a heavy price during the annual circular migration. According to Africa Geographic, about 250,000 wildebeest pay the ultimate price every year as a result of predation by carnivores, in addition to thirst, hunger and exhaustion.

The Chinese migration is also not without peril, basically involving the challenges of transporting such massive numbers within a short timeframe. But it is a necessary price to pay for both groups of migrants. 

Ultimately, both wonders of the world are bound to be affected by social and environmental changes.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, China is the world’s largest urban nation, with over 600 million urban citizens today. Projections indicate that this figure is likely to reach 900 million in 2030.

Now, this means that the annual migration will reduce significantly in future as current urban based parents become grandparents. 

For wildebeests, encroachment on their habitat and interference with their migratory route by human activity poses a grave risk to its sustainability in the years to come.

It will be an ecological disaster since it will cut off the food chain along the customary route.

It will also lead to the loss of millions of dollars in tourism revenues for both Kenya and Tanzania as the thousands of tourists who purposely visit to watch this specter, might decide to change to other destinations. 

Anyway, the world has been enrichened by these two migrations, one naturally and the other socio-economically.

It is this perfect balance in nature that we must guard jealously for the harmonious living between man and animal.

Definitely, there are more coincidences between the two species that we need to seek out, celebrate and protect. — The writer is an international affairs columnist

More on News