The Serengeti National Park is arguably the best known wildlife sanctuary in the world. “Serengeti” means “endless plains” in the Masai language and within its boundaries are more than three million large mammals. Some 35 species of plains animals may be seen here including the so-called “big seven” – buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, cheetah and African hunting dog. Unfortunately very few of the latter remain in the Serengeti. Originally exterminated as a threat to domestic stock they have more recently become victims of distemper.
However, after being decimated by poaching, the black rhino population of the Serengeti has developed well in recent years thanks to constant surveillance and the shielding of the animals from mass tourism. There are now around 30 black rhinos in the Moru Kopjes area but they may be difficult to see as visitors are only allowed to drive through the area on certain roads. White rhinoceros are not found in the Serengeti.
In May or early June, huge herds of wildebeest and zebra begin their spectacular 600 mile pilgrimage. In their wake follow the predators’ lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena and jackal – while vultures circle overhead and some of Africa’s biggest crocodile lie in wait.
Other animals frequently seen in the Serengeti include baboons, caracal, civet, bat-eared fox, genet, giraffe, hippo, honey badger, hyrax, mongoose, ostrich, serval, both Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, vervet monkeys and some 20 types of antelope including eland, hartebeest or kongoni, impala, kudu, reedbuck, roan, topi, waterbuck and the much smaller dik dik, duiker, klipspringer and oribi.
There is, of course, also a profusion of birdlife. Over 500 species including bustards, cranes, eagles, herons, owls, storks, vultures and the bizarre, long-legged secretary birds.