The Serengeti National Park is a large national park in Serengeti area, Tanzania
. It is most famous for its annual migration of over one and a half million white bearded (or brindled) wildebeest and 250,000 zebra. Serengeti National Park is widely regarded as the best wildlife reserve in Africa
due to its density of predators and prey.
Administration and Protection:
As a result of the biodiversity and ecological significance of the area, the park has been listed by UNESCO as one of the World
Heritage Sites. The administrative body for all parks in Tanzania is Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA). The National Park is also gazetted as an IUCN Category II protected area, which means that it should be managed, either through a legal instrument or through another effective means in order to protect the ecosystem or ecological processes as a whole
.Myles Turner was one of the Park's first game wardens and is credited with establishing anti-poaching defences. His autobiography, My Serengeti Years: the Memoirs of an African Game Warden provides a detailed history of Serengeti National Park's early years.
The park covers 14,763 sq km (5,700 sq mi) of grassland plains and savanna as well as riverine forest and woodlands. The park lies in the north of the country, bordered to the north by the national Tanzania and Kenyan border, where it is continuous with the Maasai Mara National Reserve. To the south-east of the park is Ngorongoro Conservation Area
, to the south-west lies Maswa Game Reserve, and to the western borders are Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves, to the north-east lies Loliondo Game Control Area. Together, these areas form the larger Serengeti Ecosystem.
Human habitation is forbidden in the National Park with the exception of staff for TANAPA, researchers and staff of Frankfurt Zoological Society, and staff of the various lodges and hotels. The main settlement is Seronera which houses the majority of research staff and the park’s main headquarters, including its primary airstrip.
The park is usually described as divided in three regions:
- Serengeti plains: the endless, almost treeless grassland of the south is the most emblematic scenery of the park. This is where the wildebeest breed, as they remain in the plains from December to May. Other hoofed animals- zebra, gazelle, impala, hartebeest, topi, buffalo, waterbuck- also occur in huge numbers during the wet season. Kopjes are granite florations which are very common in the region, and they are great observation posts for predators, as well as a refuge for hyrax and pythons.
- Western corridor: the "black cotton" (actually black clay) soil covers the swampy savannah of this region. Grumeti river is home to enormous Nile crocodiles, colobus monkey, and the martial eagle. The migration passes through from May to July.
- Northern Serengeti: the landscape is dominated by open woodlands (predominantly Commiphora) and hills, ranging from Seronera in the South, to the Mara river in the limit with Kenya. Apart from the migratory wildebeest and zebra (which occur from July to August, and in November), the bushy savannah is the best place to find elephant, giraffe and dik dik.
As well as the migration of ungulates, the park is well known for its healthy stock of other resident wildlife, particularly the "Big Five", named for the five most prized trophies taken by hunters:
- Lion: the Serengeti is believed to hold the largest population of lions in Africa due in part to the abundance of prey species. Currently there are more than 3000 lions living in this ecosystem.
- African Leopard: these reclusive predators are commonly seen in the Seronera region but are present throughout the national park with the current population at around 1000.
- African Elephant: the herds are recovering from population lows in the 1980s caused by poaching, and are largely located in the northern regions of the park
- Black Rhinoceros: mainly found around the kopjes in the centre of the park, very few individuals remain due to rampant poaching. Individuals from the Masai Mara Reserve cross the park border and enter Serengeti from the northern section at times.
- African Buffalo: still abundant and present in healthy numbers, but numbers have been somewhat reduced due to disease
The park also supports many further species, including cheetah, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, topi, eland, waterbuck, hyena, baboon, impala, African wild dog and giraffe. The park also boasts about 500 bird species, including ostrich, secretary bird, Kori bustard, crowned crane, marabou stork, martial eagle, lovebirds and many species of vultures.