Endangered Animals in the Serengeti

Written by a.k. jayne
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Endangered Animals in the Serengeti
The African elephant is at high risk of extinction in the wild. (elephant image by Kirubeshwaran from Fotolia.com)

The area of grassland in Tanzania, Africa, known as the Serengeti is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Some Serengeti animal species that formally flourished are now facing extinction due to factors such as disease and human encroachment. Among these endangered species are animals that are what the World Wildlife Fund refers to as "flagship species," meaning they are iconic and well-recognised in Western cultures.

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Black Rhinoceros

One of two rhinoceros species found in Africa, the black rhino is grey and not black, according to "Earth's Endangered Creatures." The black rhino can be found in the Serengeti; as of the early 1990s, there were only 2,000 in the wild. Rhinos have been listed as critically endangered since 2008. The rhino is poached for its horn, which is seen as a source of medicine and symbol of wealth. "Earth's Endangered Creatures" notes that black rhino horns are also used in making dagger handles. Black rhinos can weigh between 1 and 2 tons and measure between 9 and 12 feet in length. The diet of this flagship species consists primarily of twigs, leaves and shoots. The animal breeds year-round. Females give birth to one calf, which stays with its mother for up to three years.

Endangered Animals in the Serengeti
Black rhinos have been classified as "critically endangered" since 2008. (rhino image by PASCAL BOUFFAY from Fotolia.com)


Listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act, or ESA, the main threats to the cheetah's survival are loss of habitat, genetic inbreeding and mortality of cubs that are killed by other predators such as hyenas and lions. Defenders of Wildlife notes that there were more than 100,000 cheetah living in the wild in Africa in 1900. That number has decreased to between 9,000 and 12,000. As the fastest land animal, cheetahs can reach a top speed of 70mph and mostly eat small, hoofed animals such as impalas and gazelles, according to Defenders of Wildlife. Cheetahs are solitary by nature, and females raise litters of two to four cubs for about a year before the cubs strike out on their own.

African Elephant

The African, or savannah, elephant is a flagship species that is an important part of the ecosystem of areas such as the Serengeti because it reduces bush cover, allowing other animals to survive in the area, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). African elephants eat grass, fruit and plants, and breed all year; however, they tend to give birth to more young during the rainy season. African elephants live in family groups that are matriarchal, or led by a female. The elephants' lifespan is up to 70 years. WWF notes that the main threat to the survival of African elephants is conflict with humans, primarily farmers who kill elephants that raid their fields. WWF has developed a deterrent system that uses chillies, an irritant to elephants that doesn't harm them but helps keep them out of farmers' fields. According to the World Conservation Union, the African elephant is "vulnerable," meaning that it faces a "high risk of extinction in the wild."

African Wild Dog

The African wild dog is the most endangered predator in the Serengeti, according to the American Museum of Natural History's website. It is estimated that fewer than 60 African wild dogs are left on the Serengeti, and the total population on the continent is between 4,000 and 5,000. The African wild dog population has declined due to several factors, including the introduction of domestic dog diseases such as rabies and canine distemper. In addition, loss of habitat has also contributed to the reduction of the African wild dog population. African wild dogs live in closely knit groups and hunt grazing animals such as zebras and wildebeests. They also raise their young as a group and live with their pack for their entire lives.

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