Serengeti Game Reserve Is Created Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Tanganyika government proclaimed part of the Serengeti Plains a game reserve to save one of Africa’s finest wildlife herds from extinction. Twenty-two years later, the reserve would become a national park.

Summary of Event

The 1929 establishment by the government of Tanganyika (modern Tanzania) of a game reserve in the Serengeti Plains was the first important step in creating the world-famous wildlife sanctuary Serengeti National Park. This 5,600-square-mile park now in north-central Tanzania extends east from the shores of Lake Victoria. Within its borders there exists the greatest and most spectacular concentration of game animals found anywhere in the world. Most of the park comprises vast grassland plains that support huge herds of wildebeests, zebras, and gazelles. The Serengeti National Park is also renowned for its lion and leopard populations, as well as for its wealth of bird life. [kw]Serengeti Game Reserve Is Created (Nov. 19, 1929) [kw]Game Reserve Is Created, Serengeti (Nov. 19, 1929) [kw]Reserve Is Created, Serengeti Game (Nov. 19, 1929) Serengeti National Park Wildlife conservation Conservation;wildlife Serengeti Game Reserve [g]Africa;Nov. 19, 1929: Serengeti Game Reserve Is Created[07360] [g]Tanganyika;Nov. 19, 1929: Serengeti Game Reserve Is Created[07360] [c]Environmental issues;Nov. 19, 1929: Serengeti Game Reserve Is Created[07360] [c]Government and politics;Nov. 19, 1929: Serengeti Game Reserve Is Created[07360] Cameron, Donald Maxwell, Marcuswell Twining, Edward F.

Tanganyika officially came under British rule on July 22, 1922, when the League of Nations agreed that this territory in equatorial Africa, formerly known as German East Africa, would be administered by the British crown. In 1926, a critical period of Tanganyikan political development began, when Donald Cameron, the territorial governor, introduced the concept of “indirect rule.” Under this system, the major internal and external affairs of the territory were controlled by the colonial administrative staff in conjunction with the British home government, and local administration was placed in the hands of traditional native rulers.

The Serengeti Plains covered a large area in the northeast of Tanganyika Territory adjoining the Kenya border. There were very few inhabitants, either African or European, but the plains abounded in game of many kinds, including zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, buffalos, impalas, and lions. Zoologists estimate that the plains support more than half a million large animals, the most remarkable concentration of big game in Africa or anywhere else on earth. Indeed, the biological productivity of the Serengeti’s perennial grasslands is displayed in the seemingly infinite number and variety of wild animals that they support. Most of the Serengeti is grassy savanna, an open plain that provides the perfect niche for the great grazing herds, the stalking cats that prey on them, and the ravenous dogs and vultures that perform scavenging tasks. The plains are broken at places by rocky outcrops, acacia and savanna woodlands, forested rivers, and occasional swamps and lakes that add character to the landscape. In altitude, the Serengeti varies from three thousand to six thousand feet, which gives it a moderate subtropical climate despite its equatorial location.

The vegetation of the savanna, known as sward, is a palatable mixture of grasses and herbs, of which red oat grass predominates. The knee-high grass is the main food of the grazing herds, of which the most abundant are of wildebeests, zebras, hartebeests, and Thompson’s gazelles. To reduce competition and increase the utilization of food resources, the grazing animals have evolved a sequential feeding strategy. Zebras eat the coarse top of the herb layer, wildebeests eat the leafy center, and gazelles eat the seeds and young shoots at ground level. Less numerous grazers and browsers include such species as topi, oribi, and warthog (which also roots in the ground for bulbs and tubers), African elephant, buffalo, Grant’s gazelle, impala, steinbok, eland, giraffe, and black rhinoceros. All the major African predators are found on the Serengeti grasslands, as well as many of the smaller predators such as the serval, bat-eared fox, civet, and mongoose. It is not unusual for a visitor to the current Serengeti National Park to see forty or more lions in a single day. Many scavengers—chiefly hyena, jackal, and several species of vulture—are in constant attendance with the predators.

By the late 1920’s, unchecked poaching by African gangs and indiscriminate shooting of animals from motorized vehicles threatened the big-game populations of the Serengeti. Parties in automobiles entered the plains, usually crossing the border from Kenya, and slaughtered the big game from their vehicles. This practice, although strictly forbidden by the existing game laws of Tanganyika, had continued because the territory had only a few game wardens. As a result of the indiscriminate killing of wildlife, in July, 1929, a game warden was sent by the Tanganyikan authorities to Serengeti specifically to protect the wild animals.





Worldwide pressure from conservationists and scientists, spurred by editorials and dramatic photographs in The Times of London, focused attention on this jeopardized resource. Numerous articles condemned the indiscriminate shooting of animals, and books of African big-game photographs were published by Marcuswell Maxwell. These publications testified to the worldwide interest in the preservation of the Serengeti’s fauna. A common theme of the articles was that animals were so “tame” that parties in automobiles could approach lions, rhinoceroses, and antelope to within a few yards and that people intent on preservation rather than destruction could obtain remarkable photographs of wild animals in their natural state. In 1929, the Tanganyika Executive Council and Governor Cameron supported the formation of a game reserve in the central part of Serengeti Plains in what is now Serengeti National Park.

On November 19, 1929, the Tanganyika government created the Serengeti Game Reserve. The government also strengthened the game laws by amendments intended to provide closer control over the use of motorized vehicles and rifles. The provisions included the confiscation of vehicles owned by those convicted of unauthorized shooting of game.


The creation of the Serengeti Game Reserve began the process of ending poaching and the senseless killing of game in the Serengeti. The process would continue two decades later, under the leadership of Governor Edward Twining. The entire Serengeti Game Reserve was made a closed preserve in 1950, and in 1951, it was chartered as the first national park under the National Park Board of Tanganyika. Serengeti National Park was one of the first thirty national parks to be formed anywhere in the world, and it is the world’s twelfth largest.

The park originally included the large areas surrounding Ngorongoro Crater, Olduvai Gorge, and the Salei Plains. In 1959, when Sir Richard Turnbull was governor, these three areas, which constituted approximately half of the original area of the park, were removed from the park despite the objections of prominent zoologists, who claimed that the areas encompassed essential migration routes of game herds. The eliminated areas were replaced by areas of nearly equal size on the Togoro Plains and the headwaters of the Duma River; these areas, however, were less important to animal migration.

In 1961, full internal self-government was granted to Tanganyika, and Julius Nyerere Nyerere, Julius was selected as the first prime minister. In 1962, Tanganyika became a republic, with Nyerere as its president. Two years later, it united with Zanzibar to form the nation of Tanzania. During Nyerere’s tenure in office, which continued after the unification, the trustees of the National Parks Board in 1966 established the Serengeti Research Institute at Seronera. The institute, formed to conserve wildlife, is considered the most advanced center for the study of ecology in Africa.

The park is the only place in Africa where visitors can see vast animal migrations. At the start of the dry season (May or early June), a mass migration of the park’s wildlife takes place along a corridor leading west that follows the rivers that feed Lake Victoria. The migration, chiefly of zebra and wildebeest, is away from the herds’ usual haunts on the central plains and into the corridor. The animals converge and then move westward, six to ten abreast, in winding columns several miles long. This movement has its following of carnivorous animals (lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas) ready to dispose of stragglers and weaklings.

Serengeti National Park is perhaps the most famous game preserve in the world. The dedicated game wardens, park administrators, and wildlife scientists, through their antipoaching and antisettlement campaigns, have allowed the park to continue as one of the few natural sanctuaries for African wildlife. The management of this park has served as an inspiration and model for game reserves in other African countries. The Serengeti Research Institute has contributed greatly to knowledge of Africa’s animals. The theme of studies at the institute is ecology, particularly the interactions of big game animals with their environment. Scientists have examined the veterinary problems affecting the coexistence of humans, wild animals, and domestic stock and the productivity of soils and vegetation over long periods of time. Host-parasite relationships between certain wild animals and the transmission of diseases have been determined. The creation of Serengeti National Park has thus contributed to general biological knowledge, in addition to preserving large numbers of wild animals for future generations. Serengeti National Park Wildlife conservation Conservation;wildlife Serengeti Game Reserve

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Austen, Ralph A. Northwest Tanzania Under German and British Rule: Colonial Policy and Tribal Politics, 1889-1939. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1968. This readable monograph discusses the governorship of Sir Donald Cameron and the political climate of Tanganyika in the late 1920’s that made the creation of a game reserve on the Serengeti Plains possible. Cameron’s policy of “indirect rule,” in which native institutions controlled local affairs, is explained.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Grzimek, Bernhard, and Michael Grzimek. Serengeti Shall Not Die. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1961. With magnificent illustrations and firsthand accounts that trace the migration of wild herds in the Serengeti, the authors provide a significant contribution to the knowledge surrounding big game in Africa. The controversy surrounding the coexistence of wildlife and Masai tribesmen is explored. Contains a census of big-game populations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hayes, Harold T. P. The Last Place on Earth. New York: Stein & Day, 1977. This book discusses the natural history of the Serengeti Plains in a readable, nontechnical narrative. The research contributions of Bernhard Grzimek are treated in a lively fashion.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Huxley, Julian, ed. The Atlas of World Wildlife. London: Portland House, 1988. Provides a comprehensive review of the world’s animals from an ecological perspective. Contains a section on national parks and reserves, with location maps for more than seven hundred sites. The grassland of Serengeti National Park is given special attention.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kurtz, Laura S. Historical Dictionary of Tanzania. London: Scarecrow Press, 1978. Documents the historical setting and the political climate in Tanganyika during the creation of the early game reserves in the 1920’s and the establishment of national parks in the 1950’s. This book’s encyclopedic format and extensive bibliography make it particularly useful for historical and anthropological research.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Leakey, Louis S. B. The Wild Realm: Animals of East Africa. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1969. Depicts the wild animals of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda with lucid text and startling color illustrations. Presents a table of average sizes and weights for all the animals in the book. The animals of the Serengeti National Park are prominently discussed and illustrated.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Linblad, Lisa, and Sven-Olof Linblad. The Serengeti: Land of Endless Space. New York: Rizzoli, 1989. This lavishly illustrated book carried on the early photographic work of Marcuswell Maxwell, whose work is now difficult to find in libraries. The large-size color photographs are excellent, but the descriptive text is limited.
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    xlink:type="simple">Mari, Carlo, and Harvey Croze. The Serengeti’s Great Migration. New York: Abbeville Press, 2000. Photographic essay on the migration of animals in the Serengeti, filled with stunning photographs of the creatures and their habitat. Includes a map of the region.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Martin, David. Serengeti: Land, People, History. Harare, Zimbabwe: African Publishing Group, 1997. Brief overview of the Serengeti region, including its human and nonhuman inhabitants and the environment they share. Bibliographic references and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shetler, Jan Bender, ed. Telling Our Own Stories: Local Histories from South Mara, Tanzania. Boston: Brill, 2003. Oral histories of the Serengeti region collected from the area’s traditional native African inhabitants. Bibliography and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Turner, Myles. My Serengeti Years: The Memoirs of an African Game Warden. New York: W. W. Norton, 1987. Traces the evolution of Serengeti National Park from a largely untouched and unexplored wilderness to Africa’s finest wildlife sanctuary. Discusses the poaching problem that once threatened to destroy the animals the park was created to protect. Noteworthy researchers, scientists, filmmakers, and celebrities who have enhanced the reputation of the park are documented.

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Categories: History