Effect of elephants and other ungulates on the vegetation in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania
This study assessed the effects of elephants and other ungulates on the vegetation in Northern Part of Serengeti National Park (SENAPA) in Tanzania. This study is peculiar since it assessed the effects of elephants and other ungulates on the vegetation in Northern Part of SENAPA which is missing in the literature. The objectives were to determine plant species composition in the Northern Part of SENAPA, examine the effects of elephants and other ungulates on vegetation in the Northern Part of SENAPA and determine plant species damaged by elephants and other ungulates in the Northern part of SENAPA. The study adopted descriptive explanatory research design. Data was collected by transect walks, interviews, questionnaires, observations and documentary literature review. The data were organized and analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences Computer Program Version 22, Micro-Soft Excel and content analysis. Findings indicated that, the most plant species composition in the northern part of Serengeti National Park were Vachellia xathophloea, Senegalia polycantha, Shrub vegetation, open savanna grassland and woodland species, Vachellia tortilis, Vachellia drepanolobium, Sclerocarya birrea, Lannea schweinfurthii, Vachellia Africana, Commiphora species, Brachystegia species, Salvadora persica and Vachellia nilotica. Effects of elephants and other ungulates were manifested in the death of grasses and vegetation structure, uprooting of plants, breaking tree branches, toppling of trees, stripping barks of trees and seeds dispersal. Furthermore, findings revealed that, different plant species were damaged by ungulates between paths or trails and habitats. The conclusion from the study is that, elephants and other ungulates (giraffe, rhinoceros, wildebeest, hippopotamus and buffalo) negatively affect the vegetations in SENAPA. Therefore, the study recommended the need for plant species inventory and close monitoring of changes in vegetation composition and structure and the construction of an artificial water point in the northern part of SENAPA which will reduce the impacts of elephants and other ungulates on vegetation.