Television

Animal Planet to showcase 'Great Savannah Race'

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MUMBAI: The great wildebeest migration in East Africa is an annual feature. For over a million years, 1.4 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras and gazelles undertake a dramatic journey from the vast open plains of the Serengeti to the champagne coloured hills of Kenya's Masai Mara.

Animal Planet uses cutting edge technology to show this natural wonder. The event will be presented as a wildlife reality show, following the million-plus participants as they run the frantic 800-kilometer Great Savannah Race. The three part series will air on 17, 18 and 19 July at 8 pm.

Why do the animals carry out this yearly migration? Is it the wind that guides them? Or a sixth sense which leads them in search of rain-ripened grass? And, who will survive the journey and cross the finish line first? The show filmed in high-definition sets out to answer all these questions. The journey begins in Tanzania with veterinarian Patrick Garcia and scientists Anja Brinch Jensen and Sophie Grange.

Their first goal is to fit 10 animals (seven wildebeests and three zebras) with collars so they can be tracked throughout the epic journey via satellite. The collars, equipped with miniature Global Positioning System (GPS) monitors, satellite transmitters and a VHF radio system, allows the participants to be located within a radius of 1 meter. With the help of Technical Coordinator Sébastien Lafont, the scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the great migration which will help them preserve the fragile equilibrium of the eco-system.

The long and dangerous trek is fraught with danger. More than 250,000 animals will die along the way from sheer exhaustion, and the migration is relentlessly tracked by Africa's great predators - lions, cheetahs, hyenas, vultures and crocodiles - waiting for an opportunity to strike weak prey. Most dramatic of all is the moment when the migration arrives at the crocodile infested Mara River, which must be crossed in order to reach the rich grazing. As the bravest takes the initial plunge into the swirling currents, thousands follow - many to inevitable death.

The series follows the daily trials and tribulations of the 10 main characters, all of whom have been earmarked by the scientists as those most likely to complete the journey. Who amongst the main competitors is predicted to win the race? The young male bursting with energy; the old, yet experienced veteran or the female and her newborn calf?

For the first time, The Great Savannah Race follows the vast migration from the start to the finish line, capturing all the drama, mystery, intrigue, tragedy and heroic deeds of this truly epic saga.

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