The Serengeti National Park with an area of almost 15,000 km² is one of the largest nature reserves in the world. The name “Serengeti” comes from the Masai language and means “endless plain”. The national park was opened in 1951. Diverse landscapes alternate. There are endless grass savannahs with island mountains, savannah-like areas with isolated acacias, bush savannahs, tree savannas and gallery forests on rivers.
The Serengeti is on average around 1300 m above sea level. The Serengeti became world-famous for its huge numbers of ungulates and their annual migration. The Serengeti is part of a huge ecosystem.
The Serengeti National Park and its diverse landscape zones
The Serengeti National Park is located in northwestern Tanzania (Fig. 1). It covers an area of 14764 km² (almost the size of Schleswig-Holstein), making it the largest national park in Tanzania and one of the largest in the world. It was opened in 1951. The name Serengeti comes from the Masai language. It is derived from the Masai word “siringet”, which translates as “endless plain”.
Different landscape zones alternate in the national park. In the northwest, the Serengeti extends almost to Lake Victoria. There are extensive bush and tree savannahs, interspersed with large grass savannas (Fig. 2) and acacia forests. In the south and southeast, the open, seemingly infinite grass areas (“siringet”), especially short grass savannahs, are characteristic. In the southwest they change into the long grass savannah. In the northern part of the Serengeti you can find bushes and forest, the country becomes hilly and borders the Masai Mara reservation (part of Kenya). In the east and southeast, the Serengeti merges into volcanic highlands, there are the protected area of the Ngorongoro Crater and the Loliondo surveillance area. The Serengeti National Park is located between 910 m and 1820 m above sea level.
In the center of the Serengeti lies the acacia savannah, in the valley of the Seronera river. A research institute (Serengeti Research Institute) was founded here in 1962. Since then, it has carried out ecological and ethnological research that is recognized worldwide. Seronera is also the seat of the main administration of the national park.
In parts of the national park there are also Inselbergs, rock islands, which are called Kopjes here (Fig. 4). Translated, Kopje means something like “small head”. These dome-like and richly jagged rock formations, consisting of granite, gneiss or quartzite, are mostly overgrown with higher bushes and trees. They are protection, living and resting places for numerous animals. For example, the cute hyrax (relatives of elephants and manatees) find shelter from their enemies in the Kopjes’ caves. B. the leopard and jackals. During the day, lion families lie lazily and basking on the rocks. The Kopjes are also habitat for the agile klipspringer (small, delicate antelope species).
The Kopjes also offer sufficient living conditions and protection for numerous types of plants, especially herbs and bushes. B. from lack of water, too long drought and sun exposure.
The drainage is done the Serengeti through several rivers that lead to water all year round, for Lake Victoria. These include the Mara, Grumeti, Orangi, Seronera, and Mbalageti rivers. Dense gallery forest grows along the rivers, a protective habitat for many animals.
Geographically, the Serengeti is located in the high basins of Uganda and Tanzania, which also includes the Victoria, Tanganyika and Malawi Lakes. The high basin is part of the Central African Rift and is bounded in the west by its steep step. In the east, the high basin gradually rises to the East African Rift. The trenches were created by sunken or raised and tipped clods and are flanked at their edges by highland sleepers. As a side effect of this tertiary fracture tectonics, numerous volcanic cover erosions and volcanoes have arisen. They are mostly located on the threshold edges and in areas of the greatest prominence and fragmentation. In the area of the East African Rift, these include the volcanoes Kenya, Kilimanjaro and Meru as well as the area of the giant craters. The area of the giant crater with the mighty Ngorongoro crater was formerly part of the Serengeti. In 1956, it was declared a “Conservation Area” to enable the Masai to live in their ethnic identity in their traditional place.
In the subsurface and partly on the surface of the Serengeti National Park there are mostly deep rocks and metamorphic rocks such as granite and gneiss. Only in the northwest, on Lake Victoria, are there sedimentary rocks and in the southeast, on the highland sill at the Ngorongoro Crater, there are erupted rocks such as basalt, tuff and volcanic ash.
The animals of the Serengeti
The Serengeti is known worldwide for its abundance of animals. It contains the greatest concentration of large mammals living in the wild, for example wildebeest (approx. 1.6 million), gazelles (approx. 250,000), zebras (approx. 200,000), buffalo (approx. 30,000), antelopes (approx. 10,000), Giraffes (approx. 8000), lions (approx. 3000), elephants (approx. 500), hyenas (approx. 3000–4000), cheetahs (approx. 200–300), leopards (approx. 500–1000). There are also smaller mammal species such as badgers, monkeys, hyrax, klipspringer, baboons and over 400 species of birds, e.g. B. ostriches, crowned cranes, guinea fowl, marabous, weaver birds.
The steppe zebra (picture 5) lives in family groups with 12-15 members, led by a lead mare and a stallion. It has a small, stout, horse-like shape, small ears, a short mane, and wide black and white stripes. If the hikes begin in the dry season, the family groups unite to form large herds.
The whitebeard gnu (Fig. 6) combines features of antelopes, cattle and horses. It has a back and neck mane, a long tail, a long face with strongly curved horns. This Gnuart got its name from a “white beard”, long white hair hanging from the neck. Whitebeard wildebeest live in large herds.
The agile Thomson gazelle (Fig. 7) is slender, long-legged, light brown on the back and whitish on the belly. It has a wide black stripe on each side and a white “mirror” under the constantly moving tail. These small, nimble gazelles can grow up to 65 cm high and live in herds of up to 50 animals.
The Cape buffalo (Fig. 8) lives in the grass and bush savannahs. Despite his stocky and large build (bulls up to 900 kg, cows up to 600 kg), he is agile and fast. His powerful, curved horns are an effective protection against attacking enemies, e.g. B. Lions. The buffalo live in permanent communities, in herds. These can include up to 350 animals in the Serengeti National Park.
The Maasai giraffe (Fig. 9) prefers forest-grassland and bush savannahs. Due to their long legs and long neck, the giraffes are the tallest animals (up to the crown height approx. 5.6 m). The three subspecies (Masai giraffe, reticulated giraffe, Rothschild giraffe) differ in their specific coat pattern. The Maasai giraffe is the most common species in East Africa. Their dark spots all over their bodies are irregularly bordered by white and are reminiscent of vine leaves. The giraffes live in loose associations of up to twelve animals.