East African Acacia Savannas

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Wetlands, Amboseli National Park, Kenya.
© WWF-Canon / Mauri RAUTKARI

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 3 terrestrial ecoregions: Southern Acacia-Commiphora bushlands and thickets; Serengeti volcanic grasslands; Northern Acacia-Commiphora bushlands and thickets.

These dramatic savanna and grassland complexes are among the most distinctive in the world, with globally outstanding concentrations and diversity of large land mammals. The largely intact rangelands of East African Acacia Savannas support one of the world's most spectacular migration of large mammals. The region experiences a dramatic cycle of seasons with periods of drought alternating with monsoon months.

As the drought approaches, great numbers of grazing wildebeests and zebras migrate north in search of food. Then, when the rains return, the animals alternate between 2 habitats: the Serengeti and Mara Plains. Predators follow.

The tsetse fly, which carries sleeping sickness, was once present in the region, but its eradication has now made human settlement possible. The Serengeti Volcanic Grasslands ecoregion has one of the highest concentrations of large mammals in the world. Here you will find more than a million wildebeest, hundreds of thousands of plains zebras, and thousands of Thomson’s gazelles throughout the grasslands.

Size:
572,000 sq. km (221,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Savannas, and Shrublands

Geographic Location:
Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species

Species such as giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), African elephant (Loxodonta africana), and more than one million wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) typify the popular image of this ecoregion.

Other mammals known from this area include hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphuscokei) and Grant's gazelle (Gazella granti).

This ecoregion is also home to tremendous numbers of birds, including a number of species found nowhere else, such as grey-breasted spurfowl (Francolinus rufopictus), Fischer's lovebird (Agapornis fischeri), Karamoja apalis (Apalis karamojae), and rufus-tailed weaver (Histurgops ruficauda).

Other endemic species include the Scheffler's dwarf gecko (Lygdactylus scheffleri) and Mpwapwa worm lizard (Chirindia mpwapwaensis).
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Featured species

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) are large African bovids with robust muzzles and cow-like horns. The horns are long without ridges and the males' horns are thicker. Wildebeests have short hair covering their bodies, and their color ranges from slate gray to dark brown, with males darker than females. There are black vertical stripes of longer hair on their backs. They also have black faces, manes, and tails.

When there is enough food for wildebeests to remain relatively sedentary, herds form in the typical fashion of social ungulates: bachelor herds and territorial males with a group of females and offspring. As the dry season deepens, more animals congregate on available grazing lands and thus lose separate herd identities. Wildebeests are continually on the move as they seek favorable supplies of grass and water.

The famous Serengeti population of wildebeest is a very large nomadic group. Each year around 1 million wildebeest make a migratory circle of 500 to 1,000 miles. Beginning right after the calving season in January and February on the southeastern Serengeti plains, they move west toward Lake Victoria, then turning north into the Maasai Mara. They are relentless in their advance and many are injured, lost (especially calves) or killed. By the end of the dry season, the wildebeest have almost exhausted the grazing lands and return south to the Serengeti plains as the rains begin.

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Threats

This region has many large protected areas, but there are increasing problems with poaching, agriculture, land use conflicts with pastoralists, and uncontrolled trophy hunting. There is also an increased use of unsustainable slash and burn practices by smaller scale farmers, leaving the land infertile. Unsustainable water usage and irrigation practices pose problems for wildlife that rely on a steady supply of water to rivers and water holes.

In areas where people rely on bushmeat as a major source of protein, populations of ungulates have declined at alarming rates. Most black rhinoceroses in this region have already been killed by trophy hunters and poachers seeking their valuable horns. Even some plant species, such as the African Blackwood, are threatened by over-harvesting because of their commercial value in making carvings for the tourist industry.
 / ©: WWF / Getty images / Brent STIRTON
Jonathan Metei sprays his crop of watermelons, Lake Bogoria, Kenya.
© WWF / Getty images / Brent STIRTON

WWF’s work

Through its Eastern Africa office, WWF works to assist government institutions and local communities to conserve and sustainably manage forests, water catchments and freshwater resources along the coast and in the Rift valley. Marine resources are conserved and sustainably managed along the coastline. The Kenya Wildlife Service is supported in its successful programme of increasing the country's population of black rhino.

Lake Bogoria National Reserve, located on the floor of the Rift Valley, is one of Kenya's foremost biodiversity areas, harboring a rich variety of wildlife - especially flamingos and more than 350 other bird species. The lake and most of its immediate surroundings are designated as a National Reserve and are managed by a joint administration of 2 county councils - Baringo and Kobiatek.

The 2 councils have formally requested WWF to assist them produce a long-term management plan that will enable community development to benefit from the natural resources of the land draining into the lake whilst guaranteeing the maintainance of the ecosystems of Lake Bogoria and its catchments.

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