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An Umbrella thorn silhouetted by the setting sun near Seronera Camp. Serengeti sunset-1001.jpg
An Umbrella thorn silhouetted by the setting sun near Seronera Camp.
Map of Tanzania showing the country's national parks, including the Serengeti National Park. Parks Tanzania.svg
Map of Tanzania showing the country's national parks, including the Serengeti National Park.

The Serengeti ( /ˌsɛrənˈɡɛti/ SERR-ən-GHET-ee) ecosystem is a geographical region in Africa, spanning northern Tanzania. [1] The protected area within the region includes approximately 30,000 km2 (12,000 sq mi) of land, including the Serengeti National Park and several game reserves. [2] The Serengeti hosts the second largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world, which helps secure it as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa, [3] and as one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world. [4]


The Serengeti is also renowned for its large lion population and is one of the best places to observe prides in their natural environment. [5] Approximately 70 large mammal and 500 bird species are found there. This high diversity is a function of diverse habitats, including riverine forests, swamps, kopjes, grasslands, and woodlands. Blue wildebeest, gazelles, zebras, and buffalos are some of the commonly found large mammals in the region.

The Serengeti also contains the Serengeti District of Tanzania. There has been controversy about a proposal to build a road through the Serengeti. [6]

The name "Serengeti" is often said to be derived from the word "seringit" in the Maasai language, Maa, meaning "endless plains". [1] [7] [ dubious ] However, this etymology does not appear in Maa dictionaries. [8] [9]


For eons, Serengeti was sparsely inhabited as species of African wildlife have roamed freely across the vast rolling plains. However, this had all changed when nomadic pastoralists of the Maasai began to migrate to the area in the early 20th century.[ citation needed ]

They were hurt by drought and disease. Thousands died in the 1880s from a cholera epidemic and in 1892 from smallpox. Rinderpest (a bovine viral disease) then wiped out the cattle which were their possessions. [10] The Tanzanian government later in the 20th century re-settled the Maasai around the Ngorongoro Crater. Poaching, and the absence of fires (which had been caused by humans, allowed dense woodlands and thickets to develop over the next 30–50 years. Tsetse fly populations now prevented any significant human settlement in the area.[ citation needed ]

By the mid-1970s, wildebeest and Cape buffalo populations had recovered and were increasingly cropping the grass, reducing the amount of fuel available for fires. [11] The reduced intensity of fires has allowed acacia to once again become established. [12]

In the 21st century, mass rabies vaccination programmes for domestic dogs in the Serengeti have not only indirectly prevented hundreds of human deaths, but also protected wildlife species such as the endangered African wild dog. [13]

Great migration

Migrating wildebeest. Wildebeest-during-Great-Migration.JPG
Migrating wildebeest.
Wildebeest crossing the river during the Serengeti migration. Wildebeest crossing river - Stefan Swanepoel.jpg
Wildebeest crossing the river during the Serengeti migration.

Each year around the same time, the circular great wildebeest migration begins in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of the southern Serengeti in Tanzania and loops clockwise through the Serengeti National Park and north towards the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. [14] This migration is naturally caused, by the availability of grazing. The initial phase lasts from about January to March, when the calving season begins – a time when there is plenty of rain-ripened grass available for the 260,000 zebras that precede 1.7 million wildebeest and the following hundreds of thousands of other plains game, including around 470,000 gazelles. [15] [16] [17]

During February, the wildebeest are on the short grass plains of the southeast part of the ecosystem, grazing and giving birth to approximately 500,000 calves in 2 to 3 weeks. Few calves are born ahead of time and of these, hardly any survive, largely because very young calves are more noticeable to predators when mixed with older calves from the previous year. As the rains end in May, the animals start moving northwest into the areas around the Grumeti River, where they typically remain until late June. The crossings of the Grumeti and Mara rivers beginning in July are a popular safari attraction because crocodiles are lying in wait. [15] The herds arrive in Kenya in late July / August, where they stay for the rest of the dry season, except that the Thomson's and Grant's gazelles move only east/west. In early November, with the start of the short rains, the migration starts moving south again, to the short grass plains of the southeast, usually arriving in December in plenty of time for calving in February. [18]

About 250,000 wildebeest die during the journey from Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in southwestern Kenya, a total of 800 kilometres (500 mi). Death is usually from thirst, hunger, exhaustion, or predation including by big cats. [4]


River and the Serengeti plains. Serengeti - Stefan Swanepoel.jpg
River and the Serengeti plains.

The Serengeti has some of East Africa's finest game areas. [19] Besides being known for the great migration, the Serengeti is also famous for its abundant large predators. The ecosystem is home to over 3,000 Lions, 1,000 African leopards, [20] and 7,700 to 8,700 spotted hyenas ( Crocuta crocuta). [21] The East African cheetah are also present in Serengeti. [22]

African wild dogs are relatively scarce in much of the Serengeti. This is particularly true in places such as Serengeti National Park (where they became extinct in 1992), in which lions and spotted hyenas, predators that steal wild dog kills and are a direct cause of wild dog mortality, are abundant. [23]

The Serengeti is also home to a diversity of grazers, including Cape buffalo, African elephant, warthog, Grant's gazelle, eland, waterbuck, and topi. The Serengeti can support this remarkable variety of grazers only because each species, even those closely related, has a different diet. For example, wildebeests prefer to consume shorter grasses, while plains zebras prefer taller grasses. Similarly, dik-diks eat the lowest leaves of a tree, impalas eat the leaves that are higher up, and giraffes eat leaves that are even higher.[ citation needed ]

Giraffes in Eastern Serengeti. Eastern Serengeti 2012 05 31 2866 (7522635772).jpg
Giraffes in Eastern Serengeti.

The governments of Tanzania and Kenya maintain a number of protected areas, including national parks, conservation areas, and game reserves, that give legal protection to over 80 percent of the Serengeti.[ citation needed ]

Near Lake Victoria, floodplains have developed from ancient lakebeds.[ citation needed ]

In the far northwest, acacia woodlands are replaced by broadleaved Terminalia-Combretum woodlands, caused by a change in geology. This area has the highest rainfall in the system and forms a refuge for the migrating ungulates at the end of the dry season. [24] [25]

Lioness on a kopje, or rock outcropping. Lioness-in-the-Serengeti.JPG
Lioness on a kopje, or rock outcropping.

Altitudes in the Serengeti range from 920 to 1,850 metres (3,020 to 6,070 ft) with mean temperatures varying from 15 to 25 °C (59 to 77 °F). Although the climate is usually warm and dry, rainfall occurs in two rainy seasons: March to May, and a shorter season in October and November. Rainfall amounts vary from a low of 508 millimetres (20 in) in the lee of the Ngorongoro highlands to a high of 1,200 millimetres (47 in) on the shores of Lake Victoria. [26]

The area is also home to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which contains Ngorongoro Crater and the Olduvai Gorge, where some of the oldest hominin fossils have been found.[ citation needed ]

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Related Research Articles

Maasai Mara

Maasai Mara, also sometimes spelled Masai Mara and locally known simply as The Mara, is a large national game reserve in Narok, Kenya, contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is named in honor of the Maasai people, the ancestral inhabitants of the area, who migrated to the area from the Nile Basin. Their description of the area when looked at from afar: "Mara" means "spotted" in the local Maasai language, due to the many short bushy trees which dot the landscape.

Wildebeest Antelope of the genus Connochaetes

The wildebeest, also called the gnu, is an antelope in the genus Connochaetes native to Eastern and Southern Africa. It belongs to the family Bovidae, which includes antelopes, cattle, goats, sheep, and other even-toed horned ungulates. Connochaetes includes two species, both native to Africa: the black wildebeest or white-tailed gnu, and the blue wildebeest or brindled gnu.

Serengeti National Park National park in Tanzania, Africa

The Serengeti National Park is a national park in Tanzania that stretches over 14,763 km2 (5,700 sq mi). It is located in the Mara and Simiyu regions and contains 15,000,000 hectares of savanna. It is well known for the largest annual animal migration in the world of over 1.5 million blue wildebeest and 250,000 zebra and the largest lion population in Africa. It is under threat from deforestation, population growth and ranching.

Nairobi National Park First national park in Kenya, Africa

Nairobi National Park is a national park in Kenya that was established in 1946 about 7 km (4.3 mi) south of Nairobi. It is fenced on three sides, whereas the open southern boundary allows migrating wildlife to move between the park and the adjacent Kitengela plains. Herbivores gather in the park during the dry season. Nairobi National Park is negatively affected by increasing human and livestock populations, changing land use and poaching of wildlife. Despite its proximity to the city and its relative small size, it boasts a large and varied wildlife population, and is one of Kenya's most successful rhinoceros sanctuaries.

Ngorongoro Conservation Area Protected area and a World Heritage Site in Tanzania, Africa

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a protected area and a World Heritage Site located 180 km (110 mi) west of Arusha in the Crater Highlands area of Tanzania. The area is named after Ngorongoro Crater, a large volcanic caldera within the area. The conservation area is administered by the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, an arm of the Tanzanian government, and its boundaries follow the boundary of the Ngorongoro Division of the Arusha Region.

Ngorongoro District District in Northern, Tanzania

Ngorongoro District is one of the five districts of the Arusha Region of Tanzania. It is bordered to the north by Kenya, to the east by Monduli District, to the south by the Karatu District and to the west by the Mara Region.

Grants zebra

Grant's zebra is the smallest of the seven subspecies of the plains zebra. This subspecies represents the zebra form of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.

Blue wildebeest Species of mammal

The blue wildebeest, also called the common wildebeest, white-bearded wildebeest, white-bearded gnu or brindled gnu, is a large antelope and one of the two species of wildebeest. It is placed in the genus Connochaetes and family Bovidae, and has a close taxonomic relationship with the black wildebeest. The blue wildebeest is known to have five subspecies. This broad-shouldered antelope has a muscular, front-heavy appearance, with a distinctive, robust muzzle. Young blue wildebeest are born tawny brown, and begin to take on their adult coloration at the age of 2 months. The adults' hues range from a deep slate or bluish-gray to light gray or even grayish-brown. Both sexes possess a pair of large curved horns.

Grants gazelle Species of mammal

Grant's gazelle is a species of gazelle distributed from northern Tanzania to South Sudan and Ethiopia, and from the Kenyan coast to Lake Victoria. Its Swahili name is swala granti. It was named for a 19th-century British explorer, James Grant.

Wildlife of Kenya

The wildlife of Kenya refers to its fauna. The diversity of Kenya's wildlife has garnered international fame, especially for its populations of large mammals. Mammal species include lion, cheetah hippopotamus, African buffalo, wildebeest (Connochaetes), African bush elephant, zebra (Equus), giraffe (Giraffa), and rhinoceros. Kenya has a very diverse population of birds, including flamingo and common ostrich.

Tourism in Tanzania

Tanzania is a country with many tourist attractions. Approximately 38 percent of Tanzania's land area is set aside in protected areas for conservation. There are 17 national parks, 29 game reserves, 40 controlled conservation areas and marine parks. Tanzania is also home to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa.

Conservation refugees are people who are displaced from their native lands when conservation areas, such as parks and other protected areas, are created.

Mara Triangle

The Mara Triangle is the southwestern part of the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, and is managed by the not-for-profit organisation The Mara Conservancy on behalf of Trans-Mara County Council.

The Grumeti Game Reserve is found in Tanzania. It was established in 1993. This site is 411 km2.

Wildlife of Tanzania

Tanzania contains some 20 percent of the species of Africa’s large mammal population, found across its reserves, conservation areas, marine parks, and 17 national parks, spread over an area of more than 42,000 square kilometres (16,000 sq mi) and forming approximately 38 percent of the country's territory. Wildlife resources of Tanzania are described as "without parallel in Africa" and "the prime game viewing country". Serengeti National Park, the country's second largest national park area at 14,763 square kilometres (5,700 sq mi), is located in northern Tanzania and is famous for its extensive migratory herds of wildebeests and zebra while also having the reputation as one of the great natural wonders of the world. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, established in 1959, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and inhabited by the Maasai people. Its Ngorongoro Crater is the largest intact caldera in the world.

East African cheetah Subspecies of carnivore

The East African cheetah, is a cheetah population in East Africa. It lives in grasslands and savannas of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Somalia. The cheetah inhabits mainly the Serengeti ecosystem, including Maasai Mara, and the Tsavo landscape.

Loita Plains

The Loita Plains are a savanna and pastoral grazing ground in the southern Great Rift Valley in Kenya, just north of the Maasai Mara.

Tarangire Ecosystem

The TarangireEcosystem is a geographical region in Africa. It is located in northern Tanzania and extends between 2.5 and 5.5 degrees south latitudes and between 35.5 and 37 degrees east longitudes.

Kijereshi Game Reserve Tanzanian game reserve

Kijereshi Game Reserve is a protected area in Tanzania.

Southern acacia–commiphora bushlands and thickets

The Southern Acacia-Commiphora bushlands and thickets is a tropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands ecoregion in Tanzania and Kenya. It includes portions of Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, which are designated World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves for their outstanding wildlife and landscapes. It is one of three Acacia-Commiphora bushlands and thickets ecoregions in eastern Africa.


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Coordinates: 2°19′51″S34°50′0″E / 2.33083°S 34.83333°E / -2.33083; 34.83333