Tarangire National Park is the sixth largest national park in Tanzania after Ruaha, Serengeti, Mikumi, Katavi and Mkomazi. The national park is located in Manyara Region. The name of the park originates from the Tarangire River that crosses through the park, being the only source of water for wild animals during dry seasons. During the dry season thousands of animals migrate to the Tarangire National Park from Manyara National Park. It lies a little distance to the south east of Lake Manyara and covers an area of approximately 2,850 km2 (1,100 square miles.) The landscape and vegetation is incredibly diverse with a mix that is not found anywhere else in the northern safari circuit. The hilly landscape is dotted with vast numbers of Baobab trees, dense bush and high grasses.
The park is famous for its huge number of elephants, baobab trees and tree climbing lions. Visitors to the park can expect to see any number of resident zebra and wildebeest in addition to the less common animals. Mammals include most of the East African ‘plains’ species such as: lion Panthera leo, leopard P. pardus (T), cheetah Acinonyx jubatus (T), elephant Loxodonta africana (T), zebra Equus burchelli, lesser kudu Tragelaphus imberbis, eland Taurotragus oryx, and buffalo Syncerus caffer. Impala Aepyceros melampus are particularly common.
The avifauna (like the more arid vegetation) constitutes an extension of north-east African conditions, so that species such as rosy-patched shrike Tchagra cruenta and golden-breasted starling Cosmopsarus regius occur here near the south-west extremity of their range.
Home to more than 550 species, the park is a haven for bird enthusiasts who can expect to see dozens of species even in the dry season. The swamps are the focus of the largest selection of breeding birds anywhere in the world. Yellow-collared Lovebirds are a common bird sighting in the trees along the Tarangire River.
The park is also famous for the termite mounds that dot the landscape. Those that have been abandoned are often seen to be home to dwarf mongoose.
Due to an increase in the human population in the Mto wa Mbu area, and large farm/ranch schemes in the north and east, animal migration routes are being cut off and Tarangire is in danger of becoming an isolated island park. It is in fact a major dry season concentration area in north-east Maasai land for many large mammal species. During the rains, large numbers of wildebeest, zebra, eland and elephant move out of the park to the short-grass plains and adjacent thorn bush areas to the north and east. These areas comprise the Lolkisale and Simanjiro Game Controlled Areas and are essential to the well-being of Tarangire, but have little conservation status. The area has long been shared with Maasai pastoralists, but large and small scale cultivation (including much commercial seed bean farming long established northeast of the park) is rapidly encroaching. An illustration of this problem occurred in 1982 with the granting of a lease of 350,000 acres for farmland along the park’s eastern boundary. The lease specified that animals could be shot. It was revoked after public outcry and amidst much controversy in 1983. Bushfires are another problem, often started by honey-hunters or poachers. Poaching is mainly for horn and ivory. Black rhinoceros have been decimated and survival of the remaining few is doubtful. Availability of water for tourist use is another problem, with water only available from boreholes.