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When most non-Africans think of Africa, this is the region they picture.

Africa's great savannas are a place dominated by sky and rolling grassland. Their wildlife has long been the focus of filmmakers, photographers and writers.

Of Africa's great plains regions, the Serengeti is the most famous. Straddling Kenya and Tanzania, it is the only part of Africa where vast, annual migrations of animals -- wildebeest and zebras -- still occur. Early man first appeared in the Serengeti region's Olduvai Gorge some 2 million years ago. Today, the plains boast a wide range of cultures, from Maasai nomads to Kikuyu farmers and Dorobo hunter-gatherers.

For thousands of years, the region's rhythm of life remained unchanged. But now, sporadic droughts, soil erosion and overgrazing are tiring the land out, while demands on it from impoverished human populations continue to grow.

Can the Serengeti survive? Like other African savannas, the Serengeti is the location of several state-run wildlife preserves. But despite this effort, and its recent declaration as a World Heritage site, each year poachers in the Serengeti National Park bag about 40,000 wildebeest, zebras, buffalo, giraffe and impala. Those working in the region place the burden for preserving this eco-system squarely on human shoulders. As the Serengeti National Park notes on its Web site, "the land does not go on forever."


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