The Serengeti National Park – Everything You Need to Know

Serengeti National Park – Everything You Need to Know

Serengeti National Park (SNP) also known as the Serengeti Plain  is a game park found in Tanzania stretching beyond 14,763 kilometres squared (5,700 square miles). It is found in the Simiyu and Mara regions and covers 15,000,000 hectares (37,000,000 acres) of savannah. It’s famous for the world’s biggest annual animal migration of more than 1.5 million blue wildebeest, 250,000 zebra and Africa’s biggest lion population. It faces a threat from population growth, deforestation, and ranching.

Wildebeest crossing through Mara river
Wildebeest crossing through Mara river

Serengeti National Park Etymology

The word “Serengeti” is similar to the word Siringet of the Maasai people in the area, meaning “the place where the land runs on forever”

The History of Serengeti National Park

By 1930, an area measuring 2,286 kilometres squared (883 square miles) was selected as a game reserve in the south and east is Serengeti. During the 1930s, the Tanzanian government set up a system of national parks to comply with the London Convention of 1933. The area became a game park in 1940. Strict protection was granted to the park in 1948 after the formation of the Serengeti National Park Board of Trustees to handle administration at the park.

The government put restrictions on the movements of Maasai who resided here and in 1951, the park bounders were completed. In 1959, 8,300 kilometres squared (3,200 square miles) were cut off in the eastern area of the park to re-establish Ngorongoro Conservation Area for accommodating the traditional land use meeting needs of the Maasai people in an area that supports multiple uses. In 1981, Serengeti National Park covered 12,950 kilometres squared (5,000 square miles), which didn’t makeup half of Serengeti.

The Serengeti National Park became famous after Bernhard Grzimek with his son, Michael released a film “Serengeti” and published a book.

Bernhard Grzimek with his son, Michael in the making of the movie Serengeti
Bernhard Grzimek with his son, Michael in the making of the movie Serengeti

Game at the Serengeti National Park

The Serengeti National Park is believed to have Africa’s largest population of lions partly because of abundant prey species. This ecosystem is home to more than 3,000 lions. The park has been a protected area since 2005 including the Maasai Mara National Reserve (MMNR).during the dry season, the population African leopard is about 5.41 individuals per 100 kilometers squared (39 square miles).

Other mammal carnivores include approximately 3,500 spotted hyena, the cheetah, widely noticed because of gazelle in abundance, two jackal species, striped hyena, caracal,  African golden wolf, serval, 7 mongoose species, two otters species and honey badger. The EA wild dog disappeared in 1991 and was reintroduced in 2012 after

Herds of the African bush elephant recovered from a decrease in population during the 1980s resulting from poaching and grew to over 5,000 by 2014. There was a decline in the population of the African buffalo between 1976 and 1996 because of poaching, however, it grew to 28,524 by 2008. The population of the black rhinoceros reduced to around 10 during the 1980s because of poaching. Not more than 50 survive today, mostly in areas less prone to wildfires. The rhinos feed on grasses, Acacia, Crotalaria forbs, woody Indigofera, and shrubs.

A leopard with her cub sitting on a tree at Serengeti
A leopard with her cub sitting on a tree at Serengeti

More mammals include aardwolf, wildcat,  African aardvark, common genet, African civet, crested porcupine, African striped weasel, gorilla, ground pangolin, bat-eared fox, cape hare, and three hyraxes species. Primates include patas monkeys, yellow and olive baboons, and, black-and-white colobus and vervet monkeys are also observed in the gallery forests of River Grumeti.

Reptiles include serrated hinged terrapin, leopard tortoise, rainbow agama, Nile crocodile, Nile monitor, African python chameleon, puff adder, black mamba, and black-necked spitting cobra.

More than 500 species of birds can be viewed at the Serengeti National Park including, Masai ostrich, helmeted guineafowls, blacksmith lapwing, oxpeckers, African collared dove, kori bustards, red-billed buffalo weaver, Grey-breasted spurfowl, crowned cranes, secretary bird, sacred ibis, black herons, white stork, cattle egrets,  goliath herons, southern ground hornbill,  yellow-billed stork, lesser flamingo, abdim’s stork, hamerkops, spur-winged geese, hadada ibis, African fish eagles, saddle-billed storks, pink-backed pelicans, knob-billed ducks, marabou storks, Tanzanian red-billed hornbill, spotted thick-knees, martial eagles, Egyptian geese, shoebills, lovebirds, and many vulture species.

Great Migration

The great migration is the longest migration on land in the world. The whole migration is 800 kilometres (500 miles). About 1.5 million wildebeests move from the south to the north into Maasai Mara. Five hundred wildebeests are born from January to March. The herds move from the southern plains in March to begin migrating,] Plain zebra, Thomson’s gazelle, common eland join the wildebeest migration. Between April and May, the herds go through the Western Corridor. When the dry season begins, the herd goes north into Maasai Mara for greener grass.

To reach the Maasai Mara, these animals cross the Mara and Grumeti Rivers as well as encounter 3,000 crocodiles. For each wildebeest caught by the crocodiles, 50 are engulfed by the water. At the end of the dry season in late October, the herds go back south. About 250,000 wildebeest including 30,000 plains zebras every year die from predation, disease, thirst, drowning, or exhaustion.

Serengeti National Park Geology

Archaean granite-gneiss plutons (2.72–2.56 BYA) and Archaen Nyanzian System greenstones (2.81–2.63 BYA make up the basement complex, uplifted 180 MYA)  to form elongated hills and koppies, the Neoproterozoic Mozambique Belt having granite and quartzite, including the Neoproterozoic Ikorongo Group, having siltstone, sandstone, and shale and that create linear ridges. The southeast section of the park has Ol Doinyo Lengai Holocene-aged volcanic ash and Neogene-aged volcanic rock. The Mbalageti, Grometi,  Orangi and Mara, rivers flow toward the west to Lake Victoria, as the Oldupai River flows to the east into  Olbalbal Swamps.

On the eastern section of the Serengeti National Park is the Serengeti volcanic plains, a Tropical Plain Ecozone. These grasslands grow on volcanic ash deposits from the Kerimasi Volcano, which erupted 150,000 long ago, also from the eruption of Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, which formed calcareous tuff layer including calcitic hard-pan soil (vertisols) because of rapid erosion of the natrocarbonatite lava from the volcanoes.

Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano Lava
Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano Lava

Serengeti National Park Geography

The Serengeti National Park covers 14,750 kilometre squared (5,700 square miles) of woodland, riverine forest, savanna, and grassland plains. The Serengeti National Park is in northwestern Tanzania, bordering the Kenyan border in the north, where joins the MMNR. In the southeast is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Maswa Game Reserve lies in the southwest, Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Reserves in the west, and the Loliondo Game Control Area in the northeast and east.

The Serengeti National Park Grassland is extremely diverse, ranging from hilly woodlands to open grasslands to savannah. The area’s geographic diversity is because of the severe weather conditions that affect the area, especially the potent combination of wind and heat. The varied habitats in the area may have come from various volcanoes, whose activity formed the basic geographic elements of the grassland by adding craters and mountains to the landscape.

The Mara River that flows through MMNR to Lake Victoria from the Kenyan highlands is the only river permanently flowing in the Serengeti ecosystem.

Serengeti National Park Plains

The game park is cut into three zones: Serengeti grassland: The prominent feature of this grassland is the nearly treeless plains in the south. Predators use kopjes, granite formations here as observation posts. The Volcanic Plains is an edaphic vegetation community that thrives on soils got from volcanic ash got from volcanoes nearby.

Western corridor: The major geographic feature is Mbalageti and Grumeti rivers. There are some tiny mountain ranges and huge groups of riverine forest. The great migration goes through the corridor between May and July. It extends to Lake Victoria. The location is more flat compared to the northern areas of the park with more having dense plant cover compared to the southern grassland. Northern Serengeti: open woodlands dominated the landscape, mainly Commiphora and hills, including Mara River on the border with Kenya and Seronera in the south. It is relatively inaccessible and remote.

Wildebeest in the Western Corridor

Human habitation is not allowed in the park apart from the staff of Tanzania National Parks Authority, researchers including employees of the various hotels, campsites, and lodges. Seronera is the main settlement with a primary airstrip.

Management and protection of the Serengeti National Park

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization listed the park as a World Heritage Site. It’s placed in Category II protectorate area covered by the system according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which means that it must be under management to protect the ecological processes or ecosystem.

Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) is the body that administers all Tanzanian Parks. Myles Turner was among the Serengeti National Park’s initial game wardens, is appreciated for containing rampant poaching.

Serengeti National Park Threats

Mara River’s hydrology has changed because of cutting down trees in the Mau Forest area. Invasive plant species here include Feverfew, Siam weed, Mexican sunflower, and Prickly pear. The four percent growth in the human population on the park’s western side. Additionally, growing livestock use increased the amount of land switched to ranching and farming. Poaching kills around 200,000 animals every year.

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