Serengeti National Park
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Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park
Swahili: Hifadhi ya Serengeti
Landscape in Serengeti National Park
Map showing the location of Serengeti National Park
Map showing the location of Serengeti National Park
Coordinates2°20?S 34°34?E / 2.333°S 34.567°E / -2.333; 34.567Coordinates: 2°20?S 34°34?E / 2.333°S 34.567°E / -2.333; 34.567
Area14,763 km2 (5,700 sq mi)
Visitors350,000 per year
Governing bodyTanzania National Parks Authority
Criteriavii, x
Designated1981 (5th session)
Reference no.156
State PartyTanzania

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 (37,000,000 acres) 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.


The name "Serengeti" is an approximation of the word siringet used by the Maasai people for the area, which means "the place where the land runs on forever".[1][2]


In 1930, an area of 2,286 square kilometres (883 sq mi) was designated as a game reserve in southern and eastern Serengeti.[3] In the 1930s, the government of Tanganyika established a system of national parks compliant with the Convention Relative to the Preservation of Fauna and Flora in their Natural State.[] The area became a national park in 1940. It was granted strict protection in 1948 when the Serengeti National Park Board of Trustees was formed to administer the national park. The government restricted the movements of the resident Maasai people, and the park boundaries were finalized in 1951.[4] In 1959, an area of 8,300 km2 (3,200 sq mi) was split off in the eastern part of the national park and re-established as Ngorongoro Conservation Area intended to accommodate the traditional land use interests of the Maasai people in a multiple land use area.[5] In 1981, the Serengeti National Park covered 12,950 km2 (5,000 sq mi), which was less than half of the Serengeti.[6]

The Serengeti gained fame after Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael produced a book and film.[7]


A pride of lions in a tree on the Serengeti prairies
A leopard and her cub in the Serengeti Plains
An impala in the park

The Serengeti is thought to hold the largest lion population in Africa due in part to the abundance of prey species.[] More than 3,000 lions live in this ecosystem.[8] The park is a protected area since 2005 together with the Maasai Mara National Reserve.[9][10] The population density of the African leopard is estimated at 5.41 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi) in the dry season.[11] Other mammal carnivores include the cheetah,[12] which is widely seen due to the abundance of gazelle, about 3,500 spotted hyena,[12] two species of jackal, African golden wolf, honey badger, striped hyena, caracal, serval, seven species of mongooses, two species of otters. The East African wild dog was reintroduced in 2012 after disappearing in 1991.[13]

The African bush elephant herds recovered from a population low in the 1980s caused by poaching, and numbered over 5,000 individuals by 2014.[14] The African buffalo population declined between 1976 and 1996 due to poaching, but increased to 28,524 individuals by 2008.[15] The black rhinoceros population was reduced to about 10 individuals in the 1980s due to poaching. Less than 50 individuals survive today, mainly in areas that are less likely to be affected by wildfires. Rhinos mostly browse on grasses, woody Indigofera, Acacia and Crotalaria forbs and shrubs.[16] Other mammals include aardvark, aardwolf, african wildcat, african civet, common genet, zorilla, african striped weasel, bat-eared fox, ground pangolin, crested porcupine, three species of hyraxes and cape hare.[10] Primates such as yellow and olive baboons, patas monkeys, and vervet monkey, black-and-white colobus are also seen in the gallery forests of the Grumeti River.[10]

Reptiles include Nile crocodile, leopard tortoise, serrated hinged terrapin, rainbow agama, Nile monitor, chameleon, African python, black mamba,[17] black-necked spitting cobra, and puff adder.[]

More than 500 bird species can be seen such as,[17] Masai ostrich, secretarybird, kori bustards, helmeted guineafowls, Grey-breasted spurfowl, blacksmith lapwing, african collared dove, red-billed buffalo weaver, southern ground hornbill, crowned cranes, sacred ibis, cattle egrets, black herons, knob-billed ducks, saddle-billed storks, white stork, goliath herons, marabou storks, yellow-billed stork, spotted thick-knees, lesser flamingo, shoebills, abdim's stork, hamerkops, hadada ibis, african fish eagles, pink-backed pelicans, tanzanian red-billed hornbill, martial eagles, egyptian geese, lovebirds, spur-winged geese, oxpeckers, and many species of vultures.[18][19]

Great migration

Wildebeest swimming across Mara River
Wildebeest escaping a Nile crocodile while passing the Grumeti River

The great migration is the world's longest overland migration.[20] The complete migration is 800 km (500 mi). Roughly 1.5 million wildebeest migrate north from the south into Maasai Mara. Half a million wildebeests are born between January and March. In March, the herds leave the southern plains and start migrating. Common eland, plains zebra, and Thomson's gazelle join the wildebeest.[20] In April and May, they pass through the Western Corridor. At the beginning of the dry season, the herd moves north to the Maasai Mara to find greener grass. To get to the Maasai Mara, the herds cross the Grumeti and Mara Rivers and 3,000 crocodiles. For every wildebeest captured by the crocodiles, 50 drown.[20] When the dry season ends in late October, they[who?] head back south. Around 250,000 wildebeest and 30,000 plains zebras annually die from drowning, predation, exhaustion, thirst, or disease.[20]


Carbonatite lava at Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano

The basement complex consists of Archaen Nyanzian System greenstones (2.81-2.63 Ga in age), Archaean granite-gneiss plutons (2.72-2.56 Ga in age), which were uplifted 180 Ma ago) forming koppies and elongated hills, the Neoproterozoic Mozambique Belt consisting of quartzite and granite, and the Neoproterozoic Ikorongo Group, consisting of sandstone, shale and siltstone that form linear ridges. The southeast portion of the park contains Neogene-aged volcanic rock and Oldoinyo Lengai Holocene-aged volcanic ash. The Grometi, Mara, Mbalageti, and Orangi rivers flow westward to Lake Victoria, while the Oldupai River flows eastward into the Olbalbal Swamps.[21]

On the eastern portion of the park lies the Serengeti volcanic grasslands which is a Tropical Grassland Ecozone. The grasslands grow on deposits of volcanic ash from the Kerimasi Volcano, which erupted 150,000 years ago, and also from the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcanic eruptions, which created layers of calcareous tuff and calcitic hard-pan soil (vertisols) from rapid weathering of the natrocarbonatite lava produced by the volcanoes.[22][23][24]


The park covers 14,750 km2 (5,700 sq mi)[25] of grassland plains, savanna, riverine forest, and woodlands. The park lies in northwestern Tanzania, bordered to the north by the Kenyan border, where it is continuous with the Maasai Mara National Reserve. To the southeast of the park is the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, to the southwest lies Maswa Game Reserve, to the west are the Ikorongo and Grumeti Game Reserves, and to the northeast and east lies the Loliondo Game Control Area.

The Serengeti Plain is extremely varied, ranging from savannah to hilly woodlands to open grasslands. The region's geographic diversity is due to the extreme weather conditions that plague the area, particularly the potent combination of heat and wind. The diverse habitats in the region may have originated from a series of volcanoes, whose activity shaped the basic geographic features of the plain by adding mountains and craters to the landscape.[]

The Mara River, which flows through Maasai Mara National Reserve from the Kenyan highlands to Lake Victoria, is the only permanently-flowing river in the Serengeti ecosystem.[26]

Serengeti Plains

The park is divided into three regions:

  • Serengeti plains: The best-known feature of the Serengeti is the almost treeless grassland in the south. It has kopjes, granite formations that serve as observation posts for predators. The Volcanic Grasslands is a edaphic plant community that grows on soils derived from volcanic ash from nearby volcanos.[]
  • Western corridor: The main geographic feature is the pair of rivers, Grumeti and Mbalageti. There are big groups of riverine forest and some small mountain ranges. The great migration passes through the corridor from May to July. It stretches to Lake Victoria. The area is flatter than the northern parts of the park and more densely covered with plants than the southern plains.[]
  • Northern Serengeti: the landscape is dominated by open woodlands, predominantly Commiphora and hills, ranging from Seronera in the south to the Mara River on the Kenyan border. It is remote and relatively inaccessible.[]
Wildebeest in the Western Corridor

Human habitation is forbidden in the park except for the Tanzania National Parks Authority staff, researchers and staff of the various lodges, campsites, and hotels. The main settlement is Seronera with its primary airstrip.[]

Administration and protection

The park is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage Site. It is designated as a Category II protected area under the system developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which means that it should be managed to protect the ecosystem or ecological processes.[27]

The administrative body for all parks in Tanzania is the Tanzania National Parks Authority. Myles Turner was one of the park's first game wardens and is credited with bringing its rampant poaching under control.[28]

Siam weed, a introduced invasive species


Deforestation in the Mau Forest region has changed the hydrology of the Mara River.[29] There are invasive species of plants such as Siam weed, Prickly pear, Feverfew and Mexican sunflower.[30] The human population of the western side of the park is growing at four percent.[when?] Livestock use is also growing which increased the amount of land turned over to farming and ranching. Roughly 200,000 animals are killed by poaching every year.[19][when?]


  1. ^ Poole, R. M. (2012). "Heartbreak on the Serengeti (continued)". National Geographic Magazine. Archived from the original on 29 June 2012. Retrieved 2019.
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  3. ^ "Serengeti National Park travel information - Tanzania". Retrieved 2021.
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  10. ^ a b c Kennedy, Adam Scott (2014). Animals of the Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Vicki Kennedy. Princeton, New Jersey. ISBN 978-1-4008-5138-6. OCLC 873760148.
  11. ^ Allen, M.L.; Wang, S.; Olson, L.O.; Li, Q. & Krofel, M. (2020). "Counting cats for conservation: seasonal estimates of leopard density and drivers of distribution in the Serengeti". Biodiversity and Conservation. 29 (13): 3591-3608. doi:10.1007/s10531-020-02039-w. S2CID 221167378.
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