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Serengeti National Park

"home of the largest mammal migration in the world"

Serengeti National Park

The name Serengeti conjures up images of one of the last remaining wildlife spectacles on earth. Those lucky enough to visit this wilderness area come away with memories of vast herds of antelope feeding on the plains, columns of wildebeest, head to tail, trudging along their traditional migration routes, and prides of lions, sometimes sleeping, sometimes alert and carefully stalking their prey. The extensive grasslands are interspersed with 'kopjes' - rocky outcrops like islands in the flat plain, each with their own wildlife communities. Rivers flow through the Park, providing 'habitats' for a variety of birds, mammals and reptiles.



Introduction

The Serengeti National Park, the oldest and most popular in Tanzania, is about 14,763km2 in area. The Park's name Serengeti means 'endless plains' and is derived from the Maasai language. The park lies in a high plateau between the Ngorongoro highlands and the Kenya/Tanzania border, and extends almost to Lake Victoria. The Park encompasses the main park of the Serengeti ecosystem.


As in all ecosystems the vegetation and types of animals you find are closely correlated. The principal features of the Park are the short and long grass open plains in the south east, the acacia savannah in the central area, the hilly, more densely wooded northern section, and the extensive woodland and black clay plains, dominated by the central ranges of mountains in the western corridor.


Associated with these different vegetation zones and places are different types of animals. Giraffes need trees to browse and so will not be found in open plains. Lions will usually follow the migrating wildebeest, and flamingos will be found on the lakes. It is obviously impossible to predict exactly where each species will occur but it is possible to build up a picture of the most likely species to be found in any area.


Nearly 500 species of birds have been recorded in the Park, some of tem Eurasian migrants which are present from October to April.



History

Little information is available on the Serengeti from German colonial times and it was not until the early 1920's that the first professional hunters started to open up the area with safaris. In 1929, a section of what is now the central Serengeti, including Seronera, was made a full game reserve and it was at about this time that the Serengeti became world famous for its lions.


In 1950 the Serengeti was made a 'closed game reserve' in which certain species were totally protected. It remained thus until 1951, when the Serengeti was first established as a national park. The park included Ngorongoro Crater highlands, but in 1959 the eastern Serengeti, including Ngorongoro Crater was excised from the national park and made a conservation area. The few Maasai remaining in the Park were resettled in the conservation area and extensions were added to the Serengeti in the north and south.