10,000 migrating wildebeests in Kenya drowned when they picked the worst possible place to cross a fast-moving river. There were steep banks on both sides, and after they jumped in they couldn’t get out again. That’s 1% of the total wildebeest population. To compare, 1% of the human population is 60 million people, or the entire population of the UK.
Now, this is just a natural mishap – a tragic, stinky accident that probably happens every couple hundred years at least. But it illustrates how conservation must take natural population fluctuations into account. If this were one of the last populations of wildebeests, such a huge die-off might have been curtains. (Fortunately, wildebeests are not endangered, though the World Conservation Union classifies them as “conservation dependent.” ) And since wildebeests are critical prey for lions and hyenas and cheetahs, a big die-off would drag all those predators down too.
Habitat conservation is THE most critical conservation issue (on land, anyway). Because isn’t it fantastic that 10,000 wildebeests dying ISN’T a big huge ecosystem-wide disaster?
For a much cheerier wildebeest experience, check this amazing video out, and make sure to watch all the way through. There’s a surprise ending!