The Tarangire Ecosystem is a magnificent region located in northern Tanzania, extending between 2.5 and 5.5 degrees south latitudes and between 35.5 and 37 degrees east longitudes. It is defined by the watershed boundaries of the Lake Manyara Basin and the Engaruka Basin and is known for its diverse wildlife and natural beauty. With the second-largest population of migratory ungulates and the largest population of elephants in northern Tanzania, the Tarangire Ecosystem is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. In this article, we will explore the unique features of this ecosystem and the reasons why it is a wildlife haven in Africa.
The Unique Features of The Tarangire Ecosystem
The Tarangire Ecosystem spans approximately 20,500 km2 (7,900 sq mi) and hosts a diverse range of flora and fauna. The ecosystem is known for its long-distance migratory movements of eastern white-bearded wildebeest and plains zebra. These movements are necessary for the migratory animals to access the dry-season water source in the park and the nutrient-rich forage available only on the calving grounds outside the park. The ecosystem includes the dry season wildlife concentration area near the Tarangire River in Tarangire National Park and the wet-season dispersal and calving grounds to the north in the Northern Plains and to the east in Simanjiro Plains.
The Tarangire Ecosystem is home to several plant species, including baobab trees, acacia, and Combretum, which are the main food sources for herbivorous animals. The ecosystem’s vegetation changes with the seasons, and this plays a significant role in the movement of wildlife in the region. During the dry season, most of the vegetation withers and dies, making it necessary for migratory animals to move in search of food.
The Tarangire Ecosystem hosts a diverse range of wildlife, including over 500 bird species and more than 60 species of larger mammals. The ecosystem is known for its massive elephant herds and its large population of migratory ungulates, which include wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles. Other animals that can be found in the region include lions, leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas.
The Tarangire River
The Tarangire River is the lifeline of the Tarangire Ecosystem, and it plays a crucial role in the survival of wildlife in the region. During the dry season, the river attracts massive herds of wildlife, creating a wildlife concentration area. This area provides an opportunity for visitors to see large numbers of animals, including elephants, giraffes, and zebras, among others.
Why Visit The Tarangire Ecosystem?
The Tarangire Ecosystem is a unique and must-visit destination for nature lovers. Here are some reasons why you should plan a visit:
The Tarangire Ecosystem is home to a diverse range of wildlife, making it an excellent destination for wildlife watching. The region’s dry season wildlife concentration area near the Tarangire River is particularly famous for its large herds of elephants and other animals.
With over 500 bird species, the Tarangire Ecosystem is a paradise for bird watchers. The ecosystem’s varied vegetation types provide habitats for different bird species, including raptors, waterbirds, and migratory birds.
The Tarangire Ecosystem is known for its stunning landscapes, with rolling hills, vast savannah plains, and ancient baobab trees. Visitors can take a guided tour or a hot air balloon ride to get an aerial view of the park and it amazing wildlife and landscape.
The Tarangire environment runs from the Tanzania-Kenya border to the Maasai Steppe in the south and is bounded to the west by the eastern Rift Escarpment. The area contains a broad range of ecosystems and is home to important populations of African wild dog and fringe-eared oryx, as well as the Eastern white-bearded wildebeest’s sole remaining refuge.
Tarangire National Park, which encompasses around 2,600 square kilometers and is most renowned for its vast herds of elephants, can be seen in groups of several hundred individuals along the major river valley during the early rainy season.
Outside of protected areas, migration routes and dispersion regions are critical to the Tarangire ecosystem. During the early 1990s, up to 55,000 zebra and wildebeest migrated in and out of Tarangire National Park on a seasonal basis, making this one of East Africa’s largest wildlife migrations. Water availability and differences in soil mineral composition cause these migrations. Tarangire National Park has relatively low phosphorus concentrations, which is a necessary element for many breastfeeding female species, causing big ungulates (elephants, zebra, wildebeest, and buffalo) to move to phosphorus-rich grazing regions outside the Park during the wet season.
The wildlife returns to the National Park after the ephemeral water in these dispersion regions dries up. Because of these peculiar mineral gradients, access to dispersion regions beyond the Park is critical; if big ungulate species were limited to Tarangire’s less nutritious grasslands, their numbers would eventually collapse.
Geography and Climate of the Tarangire Ecosystem
The Tarangire National Park is situated in the eastern branch of the East African Rift Valley. Over millions of years, the valley floor has fallen, causing the valley to widen. About 250,000 years ago, Lake Manyara and Lake Burunge were part of a larger lake called Proto-Manyara, which lost water through evaporation and deep percolation. The lake eventually reduced in size and divided into the two shallow, alkali lakes we see today.
The topography of the area is mainly low ridges of gneiss and pre-Cambrian rocks covered with well-drained, stony soils. Large areas of the valley bottoms have montmorillonite black cotton soils. Ancient lake sediments produced clay soils in the Proto-Manyara area. Minjingu Hill and Vilima Vitatu were islands in Proto-Manyara Lake, and their phosphate deposits are derived from accumulated waterbird feces. Volcanic ash deposits produce rich soils on the Northern Plains and Simanjiro Plains.
The current western boundary of the park is the rift valley escarpment, while the northern boundary is the Kenyan border near Lake Natron. The southern and eastern boundaries are not strictly defined by any geographic features. The elevation in the park ranges from about 1000 m in the southwest to 2660 m in the northeast.
The park experiences bimodal rainfall averaging 650 mm per annum, with short rains from November to February, long rains from March to May, and a dry season from June to October. However, the rains, particularly the short rains, are very unreliable and often fail. The inter-annual variation of monthly rainfall varies markedly, with the standard deviation of monthly rainfall being 72% of the mean. The variability in rainfall is also reflected in a high inter-annual variation of the length of the wet season.
Tarangire is known for its elephant population, and the park is home to the oldest known elephant to give birth to twins. Recently, twin elephants were born in the park, beating the odds and thriving in their new environment.