Burchell’s zebras (Equus quagga) migrate through Chobe National Park in Botswana.

A population of zebras surprised biologists by making a more than 300-mile beeline across parts of Namibia and Botswana—the longest big-mammal migration ever documented in Africa.

In the wilds of Africa, food and water come and go with the seasons, and animals follow. The Serengeti is the site of what most consider the most dramatic migration, with giant herds of millions of animals—some 750,000 zebras and 1.2 million wildebeests as well as gazelles and eland—traveling from theNgorongoro area in southern Tanzania to the Masai Mara in lower Kenya and returning as the rains dictate.

But when it comes to the longest hike endpoint to endpoint, Africa has a new record holder. As reported in an article published online today in the journal Oryx, the migration, which has now been observed in consecutive years, isn’t on the scale of what goes down on the Serengeti—it involves just a few thousand Burchell’s zebras (Equus quagga). But the animals cover more than 300 miles (500 kilometers) in a straight-line, up-and-back journey across Namibia and Botswana. (In the Serengeti the animals meander more before circling back, so their feet touch more ground, but the distance between the zebras’ two destinations is greater.)

By Jennifer S. Holland for National Geographic  PUBLISHED MAY 27, 2014