|Buffalo are a major grazer in Mwiba, note the relatively short grass.|
Mwiba Game Ranch is a new private game reserve within the Serengeti ecosystem. I've been before when I put together a bird list for the area. This time it was a trip to see the place in the dry season with a view to including it within my big Serengeti Fire experiment. For those who know Serengeti , Mwiba is squeezed into the corner between NCA and Maswa GR, right down in the south of the ecosystem. (NB, we usually define the Serengeti/Mara ecosystem as the area that encompasses the wildebeest movements - Mwiba includes some of the calving grounds, particularly important during drier years.) This puts it right in the driest region of the ecosystem, with around 400mm of rain per year and as you'd expect at that end of the gradient it's largely Acacia-Commiphora woodland, though there's a surprising number of nice Albizia in there too. It's also interesting because it's got a number of interesting mammals not found or not easy to see in the rest of Serengeti - we saw both Greater Kudu and Roan Antelope again this trip. Anyway, I was there to talk fire, but knowing that we're in a low rainfall part of the ecosystem is important, because water availablity is one of the big four drivers in the savannah (fire, grazing/browsing and nutrients being the other three, of which we'll visit two more shortly). Low rainfall means low productivity - the grass even on the highest nutrient soil never grows tall and thick like in other parts of the Serengeti, but what does grow tends to be nutrient rich annuals, so pretty good grazing, even if it isn't plentiful.
|Zebra are the other big grazer - the grass here has already been grazed a bit|
Rich grass means plenty of game, with the main dry-season grazers being large populations of buffalo and zebra thanks to the numerous perrenial springs around the ranch. Already, only half way through the dry season the grass in the areas around the waterholes and by the denser thickets is heavily grazed - by October it seems unlikely there'll be much left at all as the grazing impact spreads further from the water points. A lot of the area is pretty dense bush though, with some good thickets in places along the (seasonal) rivers.
|Nearby areas with many cattle are already completely denuded, what will they do until the rains come?|
|There's a sand river that forms a firebreak between the grass and the bush - frequent early burns have removed thicket vegetation from the upwind side of the river.|
|Mwiba's springs attract a lot of wildlife (and reflect sunset)|