National Geographic : 1983 Mar
Seasons of fat and lean impose an unyieldingregimen on Etosha'swild denizens. In a good year the Indian Ocean monsoon brings continualrains from Januaryto April. They fall first and heaviest-anaverage 18 inches-on the park's eastern end. The western section, 175 miles away, receives only two-thirds of that amount. Most species give birthduring the rainyseason, when they fan out across the park to drink from rainwaterpools and feed on rich vegetation.Zebras with a two-month old colt graze in afield of Tribulus terrestris(below), impervious to sharp spikes among the blossoms. As dry months follow, animals are drawn to permanentwater holes. There they congregatein spectacular numbers, attractingan annual50,000 tourists-andlions. At Kapupuhedi, springbok, zebras, gemsbok, and a lone wildebeest gatherto drink and share the watch (above right). Dependence on these springs limits grazing range to what the animalscan reach before they must return to drink again,causing overgrazingand, in bad years, starvation.A dry cycle began in 1979. In January1982, two years after the top photographwas made, Kapupuhedi offered only sipsfor blue cranes (right) before late rainsfinally arrived. To aid the animals,park officials since the 1950s have drilled 55 artificial wells, most of them in the desiccated west. But herds there grew beyond what surroundingforage could sustain, forcing officials to close some wells and hope for the cycle to complete itself.