The Serengeti National Park is a Tanzanian national park in the Serengeti ecosystem in the Mara and Simiyu regions. 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. The park covers 14,750 square kilometres (5,700 sq mi) 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 worldwide known for its incredible scenery and magnificent wildlife. Some of the most popular animals among tourists include:
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.
Tanzanian cheetah: the fastest running land animal can reach speeds of up to 70 mph. The ability to be so quick allows them to capture prey that no other animals can catch. It is estimated there are over 1,000 individuals living in the park.
African bush elephant: the herds have recovered successfully from population lows in the 1980s caused by poaching, numbering over 5,000 individuals, 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.
Serengeti wildebeest: the park is home to spectacular migration events. Large ungulates from Grant's gazelles to blue wildebeests travel across vast tracts of land as the seasons change. The population of migratory wildebeests is approximately 1.2 million.
Apart from the vast herds of migratory and some resident wildebeest and zebra, the park is also densely packed with other plains game including half a million Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, over 8,000 Masai giraffe, warthog, topi, common eland, waterbuck, grey duiker, impala, klipspringer, roan antelope, bushbuck, lesser kudu, fringe-eared oryx and coke's hartebeest.
The Great migration
Each year around the same time, the circular great wildebeest migration begins in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of the southern Serengeti in Tanzania and loops in a clockwise direction through the Serengeti National Park and north towards the Masai Mara reserve in Kenya. This migration is a natural phenomenon determined by the availability of grazing. The initial phase lasts from approximately January to March, when the calving season begins – a time when there is plenty of rain-ripened grass available for the 260,000 zebra that precede 1.7 million wildebeest and the following hundreds of thousands of other plains game, including around 470,000 gazelles.
During February, the wildebeest spend their time on the short grass plains of the southeastern part of the ecosystem,
grazing and giving birth to approximately 500,000 calves within a 2 to 3-week period. Few calves are born ahead of time and of these, hardly any survive. The main reason is that very young calves are more noticeable to predators when mixed with older calves from the previous year. As the rains end in May, the animals start moving northwest into the areas around the Grumeti River, where they typically remain until late June. The crossings of the Grumeti and Mara rivers beginning in July are a popular safari attraction because crocodiles are lying in wait. The herds arrive in Kenya in late July / August, where they stay for the remainder of the dry season, except that the Thomson's and Grant's gazelles move only east/west. In early November, with the start of the short rains the migration starts moving south again, to the short grass plains of the southeast, usually arriving in December in plenty of time for calving in February.
About 250,000 wildebeest die during the journey from Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in southwestern Kenya, a total of 800 kilometres (500 mi). Death is usually from thirst, hunger, exhaustion, or predation.