Serengeti National Park
The vast plains of the Serengeti comprise 1.5 million ha of savannah. The annual migration to permanent water holes of vast herds of herbivores (wildebeest, gazelles and zebras), followed by their predators, is one of the most impressive natural events in the world.
Outstanding Universal Value
In the vast plains of Serengeti National Park, comprising 1.5 million hectares of savannah, the annual migration of two million wildebeests plus hundreds of thousands of gazelles and zebras - followed by their predators in their annual migration in search of pasture and water – is one of the most impressive nature spectacles in the world. The biological diversity of the park is very high with at least four globally threatened or endangered animal species: black rhinoceros, elephant, wild dog, and cheetah.
Criterion (vii): The Serengeti plains harbour the largest remaining unaltered animal migration in the world where over one million wildebeest plus hundreds of thousands of other ungulates engage in a 1,000 km long annual circular trek spanning the two adjacent countries of Kenya and Tanzania. This spectacular phenomenon takes place in a unique scenic setting of ‘endless plains’: 25,000km2 of treeless expanses of spectacularly flat short grasslands dotted with rocky outcrops (kopjes) interspersed with rivers and woodlands. The Park also hosts one of the largest and most diverse large predator-prey interactions worldwide, providing a particularly impressive aesthetic experience.
Criterion (x): The remarkable spatial-temporal gradient in abiotic factors such as rainfall, temperature, topography and geology, soils and drainage systems in Serengeti National Park manifests in a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial habitats. The combination of volcanic soils combined with the ecological impact of the migration results in one of the most productive ecosystems on earth, sustaining the largest number of ungulates and the highest concentration of large predators in the world. The ecosystem supports 2 million wildebeests, 900,000 Thomson’s gazelles and 300,000 zebras as the dominant herds. Other herbivores include 7,000 elands, 27,000 topis, 18,000 hartebeests, 70,000 buffalos, 4,000 giraffes, 15,000 warthogs, 3,000 waterbucks, 2,700 elephants, 500 hippopotamuses, 200 black rhinoceroses, 10 species of antelope and 10 species of primate. Major predators include 4,000 lions, 1000 leopards, 225 cheetahs, 3,500 spotted hyenas and 300 wild dogs. Of these, the black rhino Diceros bicornis, leopard Panthera pardus, African elephant Loxodonta africana and cheetah Acynonix jubatus are listed in the IUCN Red List. There are over 500 species of birds that are perennially or seasonally present in the Park, of which five species are endemic to Tanzania. The Park has the highest ostrich population in Tanzania and probably Africa, making the population globally important.
Serengeti National Park is at the heart the larger Serengeti ecosystem, which is defined by the area covered by the annual migration. The property is contiguous with Ngorongoro Conservation Unit, an area of 528,000ha declared a World Heritage Site in 1979. The entire ecosystem also includes the Maswa Game Reserve (2,200km2) in the south, Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Reserves in the east, Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya (1,672km2) to the north, and Loliondo Game Controlled Area in the west. This entire ecosystem is intact and no barriers hamper the migration. Serengeti National Park is sufficiently large and intact to ensure the survival and vigour of all the species contained therein, if maintained in its present state but does not, by itself, ensure the protection of the entire ecosystem. However, all other parts of the ecosystem do have a greater or lesser degree of protection. A potential threat is the plan to build a transport infrastructure through the Serengeti. This would essentially cut the ecosystem into two halves, with predictably negative consequences on the Serengeti. Adding Maswa Game Reserve and Maasai Mara National Reserve to the World Heritage List, or giving then the status of a buffer zone would further safeguard the Outstanding Universal Values of this property.
Another major potential threat to the integrity of the Park is the scarcity of surface water for the animals during dry years, as only one river (Mara) flows perennially through the Park. An extension of the Park boundary to reach Lake Victoria providing a corridor for animals to access water in times of drought is planned for the future to address this issue.
Protection and management requirements
The site has a well designated and partially demarcated boundary, and since 2009 funds have been allocated to demarcate the entire boundary. Its management is regulated by both international and government policies and legal obligations. The National Parks Ordinance Cap 412 of 1959 provides for Tanzania National Parks with the mandate to manage the site. In addition, The 1974 Tanzanian Wildlife Conservation Act and the 2009 Wildlife Conservation Act provide for both within the site and adjacent area protection of resources, respectively. A General Management Plan (2006-2016) has been formulated to guide the daily management of the site in a sustainable manner and is currently being implemented. The Plan provides guidance on how to execute the various activities within the park under four main Themes: Ecosystem Management, Outreach services, Tourism Management and Park Operations. The site has a reasonable level of human and financial resources for effective management, but as the activities expand, and more challenges emerge, the lack of sufficient resources remains a potential future constraint. The major management concerns include poaching, tourism pressure, wildfires, and lack of adequate capacity in resource monitoring. Another important management challenge is water: despite numerous sources of water during the rain season, there is only one perennial river (Mara) which is transnational. However, this river currently faces multiple human-mediated cross-boundary threats.
The area of savannah and open woodland comprises some 1.5 million hectares and contains the largest herds of grazing animals in the world and the carnivores that prey on them, providing a wildlife spectacle that is second to none. The great migrating herds are continuously moving through the entire ecosystem, but the sight is most impressive in May and June, when the animals travel en masse from the central plains to the permanent water holes on the western side of the park. The Serengeti ecosystem contains much more than these dominant species.
The annual migration is dominated by wildebeest in enormous numbers - some 190,000 in the 1950s, 1.69 million in 1989, but 1.27 million in 1991; also by Burchell's zebra (some 200,000), Thomson's gazelle, with some eland and topi, each harvesting the grass most suited to it. The herds are followed by prides of lion numbering up to 3,000 individuals, spotted hyena, striped hyena, golden jackal, side-striped jackal and black-backed jackal. The last packs of the endangered wild dog disappeared in 1991. A rabies epidemic killed three of the packs, but there is no agreement on the full cause of the disappearance.
There are large herds of antelope of many species. On the grasslands are eland, lesser kudu, roan antelope, oribi, Grant's gazelle, hartebeest, steenbock, topi and oryx, also buffalo. In the woodlands are grimmia, impala and Kirk's dikdik. In the swamps are reedbuck and waterbuck. Among the kopjes are klipspringer, as well as giraffe and olive baboon; and on the mountains, mountain reedbuck.
Other characteristic larger mammals are leopard, cheetah (classed as vulnerable), caracal, African elephant (endangered: estimated number 1,357 in 1994), black rhinoceros (critically endangered: there are very few left), hippopotamus and giraffe. Smaller mammals include numerous species of bat, bushbaby, vervet monkey, patas monkey, black and white colobus monkey and olive baboon, aardvark, ground pangolin, cape hare, porcupine, three species of hyrax and many other rodents, bat-eared fox, two species of otter, ratel, zorilla, common genet, large spotted genet, African civet, seven species of mongoose, aardwolf, serval, golden cat, African wildcat and bushpig. Reptiles include Nile crocodile, Nile monitor lizard, African rock python, blacknecked spitting cobra and puff adder.
Over 500 bird species include 34 raptors, 6 vultures and aggregations of over 20,000 waterbirds. There are ostrich, marabou stork, lesser flamingo, African fish eagle, tawny eagle, lesser falcon (vulnerable), secretary bird, helmeted guineafowl, crowned crane, kori bustard, black-winged pratincole, black-winged plover, Caspian plover, white-winged black tern, Fischer's lovebird, purpuratus, southern ground hornbill, greycrested helmet shrike, Karamoja apalis (vulnerable), redthroated tit and several birds of restricted distribution such as rufous-tailed weaver.
Serengeti is contiguous with Ngorongoro Conservation Unit, an area of 528,000 ha declared a World Heritage site in 1979. But even the combined Serengeti-Ngorongoro ecosystem of some 2 million hectares does not include the entire ecosystem. It is felt that the Serengeti National Park is sufficiently large to ensure the survival of all the species contained therein if it is maintained as at present, but that it does not by itself ensure the protection of the entire migratory ecosystem.Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Protected area since 1940. In 1929, 228,600ha of central Serengeti was declared a game reserve. National park status in 1951 with extensive boundary modifications in 1959. Included with the adjoining Maswa Game Reserve as part of Serengeti-Ngorongoro Biosphere Reserve in 1981. Accepted as part of a World Heritage Site in 1981.Source: Advisory Body Evaluation