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date: 20 April 2019

Serengeti National Park

Encyclopedia of Africa
Henry Louis GatesHenry Louis Gates, Jr., Kwame Anthony AppiahKwame Anthony Appiah

Serengeti National Park Park in northern Tanzania. 

Established in 1941, Serengeti National Park covers about 14,750 sq km (about 5,700 sq mi) and consists mainly of flat, open grassland, with a few rocky kopjes (small hills) and some areas of woodland and bushy savanna in the western part of the park. The Serengeti is the only national park in Africa where seasonal migrations of plains animals take place.

Serengeti National Park is inhabited by more than 200 species of birds and thirty-five species of plains mammals, including cheetahs, leopards, lions, and giraffes. Zebras, gnus (large African antelopes also called wildebeests), gazelles, and elephants did not exist in large numbers in the park until the 1960s, when the rising human population in the region caused a shortage of natural resources and forced many of these animals into the protected area. About 200,000 zebras, two million gnus, one million gazelles, and thousands of elephants now live in the park. The plains of Serengeti National Park are also home to black rhinoceroses. During the rainy season, from November to May, millions of animals graze on the park’s southeastern plains. This area has few rivers and becomes excessively dry once the rainy season ends, so gnus, gazelles, and zebras migrate to the western savanna and as far north as the grasslands of Masai Mara Game Park, across the Kenya-Tanzania border, where they spend the dry season.

In 1981 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the park a World Heritage Site. Illegal hunting in the park is a serious problem, posing a particular threat to the survival of elephants and rhinoceroses. Poaching has become a lucrative cash business for local peoples because the market for wild meat flourished in the late twentieth century. Certain parts of the park have been set aside for hunting in hopes that the rest will remain stable.

See also Wildlife Management in Africa.