Serengeti National Park

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Serengeti National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Landscape in Serengeti National Park
Map showing the location of Serengeti National Park
Map showing the location of Serengeti National Park
Location Tanzania
Coordinates 2°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
Area 14,750 square kilometres (5,700 sq mi)
Established 1951
Visitors 350,000 per year[1]
Governing body Tanzania National Parks Authority
Type Natural
Criteria vii, x
Designated 1981 (5th session)
Reference no. 156
State Party Tanzania
Region Africa
Map of Tanzania showing all national parks

The Serengeti National Park is a Tanzanian national park in the Serengeti ecosystem in the Mara and Simiyu regions.[2][3] It is famous for its annual migration of over 1.5 million white bearded (or brindled) wildebeest and 250,000 zebra and for its numerous Nile crocodile and honey badger.


A group of lions in a tree on the Serengeti prairies.

The Maasai people had been grazing their livestock in the open plains of eastern Mara Region, which they named "endless plains", for around 200 years when the first European explorer, Austrian Oscar Baumann, visited the area in 1892.[4] The name "Serengeti" is an approximation of the word used by the Maasai to describe the area, siringet, which means "the place where the land runs on forever".[5]

The first Briton to enter the Serengeti, Stewart Edward White, recorded his explorations in the northern Serengeti in 1913. He returned to the Serengeti in the 1920s and camped in the area around Seronera for three months. During this time, he and his companions shot 50 lions.[6]

Because the hunting of lions made them scarce, the British colonial administration made a partial game reserve of 800 acres (3.2 km2) in the area in 1921 and a full one in 1929. These actions were the basis for Serengeti National Park,[5] which was established in 1951.

The Serengeti gained more fame after the initial work of Bernhard Grzimek and his son Michael in the 1950s. Together, they produced the book and film Serengeti Shall Not Die, widely recognized as one of the most important early pieces of nature conservation documentary.[citation needed]

To preserve wildlife, the British evicted the resident Maasai from the park in 1959 and moved them to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. There is still considerable controversy surrounding this move, with claims made of coercion and deceit on the part of the colonial authorities.[5]

The park is Tanzania's oldest national park and remains the flagship of the country's tourism industry, providing a major draw to the Northern Safari Circuit encompassing Lake Manyara National Park, Tarangire National Park, Arusha National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It has over 2,500 lions and more than 1 million wildebeest.


The park covers 14,750 square kilometres (5,700 sq mi)[7] 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. Together, these areas form the larger Serengeti ecosystem.

The park is usually described as divided into three regions-

  • Serengeti plains: the 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 that 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 clay soil covers the swampy savannah of this region. The Grumeti River is home to Nile crocodiles, colobus monkeys, hippopotamus, and martial eagles. 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 on the Kenyan border. 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.

Human habitation is forbidden in the park with the exception of staff for the Tanzania National Parks Authority, researchers and staff of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, and staff of the various lodges, campsites and hotels. The main settlement is Seronera, which houses the majority of research staff and the park's main headquarters, including its primary airstrip.

A group of flamingo in a small lake inside Serengeti plain


An African leopardess and her cub in a tree on the Serengeti Plain.
A Tanzanian cheetah in the Serengeti prairies.
Grey crowned crane in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
A herd of elephants in the morning in Serengeti National Park
A Superb starling in the Serengeti National Park

In addition to 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:

  • Masai lion: the Serengeti is believed to hold the largest population of lions in Africa due in part to the abundance of prey species. More than 3,000 lions live in this ecosystem.
  • African leopard: these reclusive predators are commonly seen in the Seronera region but are present throughout the national park with the population at around 1,000.
  • African bush 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.
  • Eastern 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.
An impala in the park

This park also supports many other species, including the Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, wildebeest, topi, eland, waterbuck, spotted hyena, striped hyena, serval, baboon, impala, East African wild dog, and Masai giraffe. It also boasts about 500 bird species, including ostriches, secretary bird, kori bustards, crowned cranes, marabou storks, martial eagles, lovebirds, and many species of vultures.

Administration and protection[edit]

Because of its biodiversity and ecological significance, the park has been listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage Site. As a national park, 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, through either a legal instrument or another effective means, to protect the ecosystem or ecological processes as a whole.[citation needed]

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.[8] His autobiography, My Serengeti Years: The Memoirs of an African Game Warden, provides a detailed history of the park's early years.

"Snapshot Serengeti" is a science project by the University of Minnesota Lion Project, which seeks to classify over 30 species of animals within the park using 225 camera traps to better understand how they interact with each other and lions.[9]

Proposed road across the northern Serengeti[edit]

In July 2010, President Jakaya Kikwete renewed his support for an upgraded road through the northern portion of the park to link Mto wa Mbu, southeast of Ngorongoro Crater, and Musoma on Lake Victoria. While he said that the road would lead to much-needed development in poor communities, others, including conservation groups and foreign governments like Kenya, argued that the road could irreparably damage the great migration and the park's ecosystem.[10][11][12]

The African Network for Animal Welfare sued the Tanzanian government in December 2010 at the East African Court of Justice in Arusha to prevent the road project. The court ruled in June 2014 that the plan to build the road was unlawful because it would infringe the East African Community Treaty under which member countries must respect protocols on conservation, protection, and management of natural resources. The court, therefore, restrained the government from going ahead with the project.[13]

Proposed extension of park boundaries to Lake Victoria[edit]

Government officials have proposed expanding the Serengeti National Park to reach Lake Victoria because increasingly intense droughts are threatening the survival of millions of animals.[14]

In popular culture[edit]

The park was the location of filming for Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" music video, directed by Joseph Kahn.

Properties and lodges[edit]

(listed alphabetically)[15]


  1. ^ "Dar registers "three wonders"". Daily News (Tanzania). 20 August 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2013. 
  2. ^ The official Map of Tanzania with New Regions and Districts, Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, 21 September 2012
  3. ^ Mapcarta map of Tanzania
  4. ^ "Dr. Oscar Baumann", Information about northern Tanzania: a personal scrapbook of "cuttings" from published sources
  5. ^ a b c "Heartbreak on the Serengeti", National Geographic Magazine, reported by Robert M. Poole, February 2006
  6. ^ "Stewart Edward White", Information about northern Tanzania: a personal scrapbook of "cuttings" from published sources
  7. ^ Tanzania in figures 2012, National Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Finance, June 2013, page 12
  8. ^ Myles Turner, Serengeti National Park's Official Site, authored by Alan Root
  9. ^ "Snapshot Serengeti". Retrieved 12 December 2012. 
  10. ^ "Serengeti Road Plan Offers Prospects and Fears", New York Times, reported by Jeffrey Gettleman, 30 October 2010
  11. ^ "Serengeti Highway threatens great migration", Agence France-Presse, reported by Francois Ausseill, reprinted at, 29 October 2010
  12. ^ "Controversy over Serengeti road plan deepens", Business Daily, reported by Paul Wafula, 7 October 2010
  13. ^ "Tanzania loses Serengeti road case", The Citizen, reported by Zephania Ubwani, 21 June 2014, accessed 23 November 2014
  14. ^ "Thirsty Serengeti wildlife to get new water hole: Lake Victoria", Reuters, reported by Kizito Makoye, 15 September 2014, accessed 4 November 2014
  15. ^ Serengeti National Park

Further reading[edit]

  • Homewood, K. W. & Rodgers, W. A. (1991), Maasailand Ecology: Pastoralist Development and Wildlife Conservation in Ngorongoro, Tanzania, New York: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-40002-3 .
  • Turner, Myles (1988), My Serengeti Years: the Memoirs of an African Games Warden, New York: W. W. Norton, ISBN 0-393-02576-4 .

External links[edit]