The Ecology, History, and More of the Serengeti Region
Overview of the Serengeti
Northern Tanzania is home to the Serengeti (/srnti/ SERR-n-GHET-ee) ecosystem, which is known for its arid conditions. The Serengeti National Park and other wildlife reserves make up the region’s protected area, which is around 30,000 square kilometres (12,000 square miles). An annual migration of more than a million wildebeest and zebras makes the Serengeti an African Natural Wonder as well as one of the world’s top 10 natural vacation destinations.
As a result of the Serengeti’s large lion population, it is a popular destination for those seeking to see lion prides in their natural habitat. More than 70 large mammal species and 500 bird species can be found here. The wide range of habitats, such as riverine forests, marshes, kopjes, grasslands, and woodlands, contributes to the richness. It is common to see blue wildebeests, gazelles, zebras and buffalo in the area.
Tanzania’s Serengeti District is also included in the Serengeti. Debate has erupted over a proposal to build a road through the Serengeti National Park.
The Maasai people term “seringit,” which means “endless plains,” is commonly cited as the origin of the name “Serengeti.” Maa dictionaries, on the other hand, do not have this derivation.
History of the Serengeti
For millennia, the Serengeti’s sweeping grasslands were home to a rich variety of African wildlife. All of that began to alter in the early twentieth century with the arrival of the Maasai pastoralists.
Drought and disease were the main causes of their misery. A cholera pandemic killed thousands in the 1880s, and smallpox killed thousands more in 1892. Their herd was later decimated by Rinderpest (a cow viral infection). Tanzanian authorities relocated the Maasai around Ngorongoro Crater later in the twentieth century. For the next 30–50 years, poaching and the absence of fires (also caused by humans) allowed dense forests and thickets to emerge. Because of the tsetse fly population, the area is currently uninhabitable for significant numbers of people.
During the 1970s, wildebeest and Cape buffalo populations returned, which reduced the amount of fuel available for fires. Because of the reduced intensity of the fires, Acacia has been able to reassert its presence.
Rabies vaccination initiatives in the Serengeti in the twenty-first century prevented hundreds of human deaths while also protecting endangered wildlife, such as the African wild dog.
The Best Possible Migration
It starts in Tanzania’s southern Serengeti Ngorongoro Conservation Area each year at around the same time and proceeds clockwise via the Serengeti National Park and up north to Kenya’s Maasai Mara reserve, where the yearly great wildebeest migration occurs. The availability of pasture causes this migration to occur spontaneously. There are 260,000 zebras and 1.7 million wildebeests, as well as hundreds of thousands of other plains species, including 470,000 gazelles, in the first phase, which lasts from January to March, when the calving season begins.
Around 500,000 wildebeest calves are born in two to three weeks in the short grass plains of the ecosystem’s southeast portion in February. Because extremely young calves are more noticeable to predators than older calves from the previous year, fewer calves are born ahead of time and survive. When the rains stop in May, the animals go north to the Grumeti River area, where they usually stay until the end of June. Crocodile sightings make the Grumeti and Mara river crossings a popular Tanzania safari stop starting in July. With the exception of Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, which exclusively move east/west, the herds arrive in late July/early August and remain through the rest of the dry season. Migratory birds resume their southbound trek in early November when short-lived rains begin to fall. They will now go to short-grass plains in the southeast, where they will arrive in December, just in time for calving in early February.
An estimated 250,000 wildebeest die en route from Tanzania to Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, located in southwest Kenya, during the 800-kilometre journey (500 mi). The most common causes of mortality were dehydration, malnutrition, exhaustion, and large cat predation.
East Africa’s Serengeti is home to some of the continent’s most stunning game areas. Besides being well-known for its massive migratory movement, the Serengeti is also well-known for the enormous predators that inhabit the area. This habitat is home to over 3,000 lions, 1,000 African leopards, and 7,700 to 8,700 spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta). There are also East African cheetahs that can be seen in the Serengeti.
The Serengeti’s African wild dog population is under decline. For example, lions and spotted hyenas, which prey on wild dogs and are the direct cause of their demise, are common in Serengeti National Park (where they went extinct in 1992).
As a result, the Serengeti is home to a wide variety of grazers such as Cape buffaloes, African elephants, warthogs and Grant’s gazelles. To keep such a wide variety of species of grazers in balance, the Serengeti relies on a vast array of diets, even among closely related species. As an example, wildebeests prefer shorter grasses, whereas plains zebras favor taller grasses. Impalas and giraffes, on the other hand, eat the highest and highest levels of foliage on a tree, respectively. The eastern Serengeti is home to a large population of giraffes.
More than 80 percent of the Serengeti is protected by Tanzania and Kenya’s governments through a variety of protected areas, including national parks, conservation zones, and game reserves.
Ancient lakebeds surrounding Lake Victoria have given rise to a series of floodplains.
An alteration in the geology in the far northwest has resulted in a transition in Acacia woods to Terminalia-Combretum woodlands. During the dry season, this area receives the highest rainfall in the system, making it a sanctuary for ungulates on their way north.
From 920 to 1,850 meters (3,020 to 6,070 feet), the Serengeti’s altitudes range between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius (59 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit). March to May and October to November are the wettest months of the year. However, the rest of the year is ordinarily dry. The Ngorongoro highlands receive an average of 508 millimetres (20 inches) of rain per year, whereas the Lake Victoria shores receive 1,200 millimetres (47 inches) of rain per year.
It’s in this region that you’ll find the Ngorongoro Crater and the Olduvai Gorge, which are home to some of the earliest hominid fossils in existence.
Creatures of the Serengeti in Media
- There is a six-part BBC documentary series about the animals of the Serengeti. Currently, work is underway on the second season of Discoveries, which will include both well-known protagonists and brand new ones. Both seasons are available to Discovery+ subscribers.
- For his 1993 studio album River of Souls, Dan Fogelberg recorded “Serengeti Moon,” a soft rock track. It’s an African-themed love song about a couple having sex under the Serengeti moon.
- Hymn to the Earth, Sonny Greenwich’s 1994 album with Ernie Nelson on vocals, contained a song called “Serengeti” on the record.
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