Thursday, January 31, 2013

Deep in the Serengheti . . .

The Maasai call the Serengheti in Swahili, Siringitu - "the place where the land moves on forever." I wish it were so, for its 5,700 square miles seems endless. The diversity of animals is staggering -- we saw thousands of animals: lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, giraffes, cape buffalos, hyenas, baboons, gazelles, zebras, and birds of every feather.

Zebras in the Serengheti (Camp 2012)
In the 1960s, illegal poaching nearly decimated the elephants and rhinos in the Serengheti. Ombani, our group leader, standing in front of the nightly fire, wrapped in a characteristic red blanket, argued passionately for sanctions against those countries still illegally buying ivory and rhino tusks. 

Since the 1960s, International support for the park has stabilized animal populations, and, by 1989 a worldwide ban on ivory sales went into effect. But, according to the National Park official website, 40,000 animals are killed by local poachers every year -- for their meat. 

Giraffes in the Serengheti (Camp 2012)
Conflict remains between the interests of tourists who bring much needed dollars into the country, environmentalists who want to protect the park and its animals, and struggling farmers who must feed their families.

While the people we met during our stay in Tanzania were hard working and beautifully optimistic about the future, this African country is among the poorest in all of Africa. Some 75% of her people make their living in rural areas. Drought has cripped both crop productivity and slowed the spread of electricity (Wikipedia points out that 60% of Tanzania's electricity comes from hydro-electric sources). Their economy remains vulnerable and thus affects the Serengheti National Park as well.

I learned that "safari" means journey in Swahili. Some in our group came to Tanzania to see the animals. But we all came away, transformed by the people we met and their love for their country, and with a better understanding of the issues facing this beautiful African country.

Lion at the Serengheti (Wikipedia)

For more information about Serengheti National Park: or at Wikipedia and on Tanzania itself, see


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