The Animals of the Serengeti

East Gate, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

You are viewing an iconic photo that I snapped with my little point-and-shoot camera as I took during a “happy stop” at the main gate at Serengeti National Park. While people come from around the world to snap pictures of the animals of the Serengeti, I was struck by the most pervasive creature of all, the human visitor. You will see humans in the back of safari vehicles from early in the day until 18:00 every evening, when the travelers are either gone from the park or corralled into their camps.

In hopes of explaining the response of the Tanzanian economy to the foreign visitors to the park, this little shop brings their experience with tourist needs into sharp focus. Looking closely at the windows from left to right, one can identify the priorities of the tourist as liquor, wine, beer, and Pringles. You may read whatever commentary you would like into those documentary facts.

The Masai have been removed from the national park and the wildlife is resurging. The Masai do not hunt wildlife and eat it (for the most part), but their cattle herds were destructive and competed with the herbivores for grasses on the endless plain. The few roads in the park are lightly maintained, remaining in kidney-crushing condition, discouraging vehicles and promising “African massages” to the few who dare to speed.

Unfortunately, climate change is having a significant impact on the Serengeti. The seasons of the region are long dry, short wet, short dry, and long wet. January is supposed to be the short dry season, yet it rained every day, confusing both flora and fauna. Zebra and wildebeests are supposed to birth their babies altogether at the end of the short dry and the beginning of the long wet. They did not know when to drop. The sex of crocodiles in the egg is determined by the outside ambient temperature. The higher the temperature, the more eggs will hatch as male. The warmer temperatures accompanying climate change has created a severe lack of females. The migration itself is under siege, an endless counterclockwise pattern of grazing across the plains. Short grass benefits the grazing animals and the long grass benefits the carnivores. The misplaced rains are making chaos of the grazing cycles.

This park is dependent upon the tourists who come with their cameras and their appetites. The tourist fees and opportunities to camp in environmentally conceived camps sustain one of the best maintained and better protected parks in East Africa. There is nothing quite like listening to cape buffalo munch grass next to your tent in the middle of night, who will remind you with a delightfully large buffalo patty just outside your tent flaps in the morning.

Someone please explain to me: Is Pringles an international sensation that far-ranging tourists just cannot put down?

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