Serengeti National Park
Serengeti National Park
Natural United Republic Of Tanzania Africa Mara, Arusha, And Shinyanga Provinces

The area of savannah and open woodland comprises some 1.5 million hectares and contains the largest herds of grazing animals in the world and the carnivores that prey on them, providing a wildlife spectacle that is second to none. The great migrating herds are continuously moving through the entire ecosystem, but the sight is most impressive in May and June, when the animals travel en masse from the central plains to the permanent water holes on the western side of the park. The Serengeti ecosystem contains much more than these dominant species.

The annual migration is dominated by wildebeest in enormous numbers - some 190,000 in the 1950s, 1.69 million in 1989, but 1.27 million in 1991;also by Burchell's zebra (some 200,000), Thomson's gazelle, with some eland and topi, each harvesting the grass most suited to it. The herds are followed by prides of lion numbering up to 3,000 individuals, spotted hyena, striped hyena, golden jackal, side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal. The last packs of the endangered wild dog disappeared in 1991. A rabies epidemic killed three of the packs, but there is no agreement on the full cause of the disappearance.

There are large herds of antelope of many species. On the grasslands are eland, lesser kudu, roan antelope, oribi, Grant's gazelle, hartebeest, steenbock, topi and oryx, also buffalo. In the woodlands are grimmia, impala and Kirk's dikdik. In the swamps are reedbuck and waterbuck. Among the kopjes are klipspringer, as well as giraffe and olive baboon;and on the mountains, mountain reedbuck.

Other characteristic larger mammals are leopard, cheetah (classed as vulnerable), caracal, African elephant (endangered: estimated number 1,357 in 1994), black rhinoceros (critically endangered: there are very few left), hippopotamus and giraffe. Smaller mammals include numerous species of bat, bushbaby, vervet monkey, patas monkey, black and white colobus monkey and olive baboon, aardvark, ground pangolin, cape hare, porcupine, three species of hyrax and many other rodents, bat-eared fox, two species of otter, ratel, zorilla, common genet, large spotted genet, African civet, seven species of mongoose, aardwolf, serval, golden cat, African wildcat and bushpig. Reptiles include Nile crocodile, Nile monitor lizard, African rock python, blacknecked spitting cobra and puff adder.

Over 500 bird species include 34 raptors, 6 vultures and aggregations of over 20,000 waterbirds. There are ostrich, marabou stork, lesser flamingo, African fish eagle, tawny eagle, lesser falcon (vulnerable), secretary bird, helmeted guineafowl, crowned crane, kori bustard, black-winged pratincole, black-winged plover, Caspian plover, white-winged black tern, Fischer's lovebird, purpuratus, southern ground hornbill, greycrested helmet shrike, Karamoja apalis (vulnerable), redthroated tit and several birds of restricted distribution such as rufous-tailed weaver.

Serengeti is contiguous with Ngorongoro Conservation Unit, an area of 528,000 ha declared a World Heritage site in 1979. But even the combined Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem of some 2 million hectares does not include the entire ecosystem. It is felt that the Serengeti National Park is sufficiently large to ensure the survival of all the species contained therein if it is maintained as at present, but that it does not by itself ensure the protection of the entire migratory ecosystem.