Welcome to the Savannah Journey!

 

Enter your name to begin.

 

Hi, {NAME}!

Today you will journey through Savannah ecosystems in three unique locations around the world. 

These three locations may be far apart in distance, but they are similar in how they contribute to a healthy planet. 

Which location will you visit first? 

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Leopards are elegant, powerful big cats

that typically hang out in trees and bushes where their spotted pattern provides camouflaged. We are lucky to be seeing one right now! 

How fast do you think leopards can run? 

Believe it or not, leopards can run up to

64 kilometers per hour / 40 miles per hour!

Despite their speed, their main hunting tactic is to ambush prey by jumping from trees. Though they have an impressive ability to adapt to different environments, they still fall victim to habitat conversion and even the overcrowding of minibuses and jeeps from tourist groups, which can interrupt their hunts. 

Let’s go see what other species we can find! 

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A source of beautiful, kaleidoscopic colors in the savannah is the

Gouldian finch. 

Where else can the Gouldian finch be found in the wild? 

These beautiful birds can only be found in Northern Australia. 

If the savannah land in Northern Australia suffers or is wiped out, the finches will face the same fate. 

Protecting savannahs and other ecosystems means protecting the unique species that are endemic to the region and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. 

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Our next animal has a pig-like body with a long, flexible trunk.

That’s a tapir,

a creature with a unique ancient lineage.  

What species do you think tapirs are related to? 

Related to both horses and rhinoceroses, 

it is believed that these animals have hardly changed over tens of millions of years. Tapirs are nocturnal mammals who feed on leaves, fruit, twigs, and grass. They help maintain biodiversity in the Cerrado by dispersing the seeds of plants as they eat them, leaving them well-fertilized and providing food for other animals. 

Unfortunately, tapirs are endangered in the Cerrado region due to trophy hunting and land conversion for agriculture. Tapirs’ ecosystem roles and unique ancient history are irreplaceable—that's why we must protect them! 

Look, I think I spot a wolf in the distance! 

Welcome to Serengeti National Park!  

Tanzania’s oldest park, it’s one of the most well-known wildlife sanctuaries in the world. 

It’s home to countless and diverse plant and animal species that make up the Savannah ecosystem.  

But despite the beauty and wonders of the park, its health and the health of other savannahs are being threatened by the impacts of climate change. 

Let’s take an eco-friendly tour of the park to learn more about its biodiversity and why we must protect it! 

Welcome to the savannah land of Northern Australia! 

Let’s learn more about the unique features of this savannah, and why it’s so important that it continues to thrive! 

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If you thought those cats were big, check out this species—

the iconic African elephant!  

What do you think their tusks are for? 

Tusks are actually modified incisor teeth!

They help dig and scrape for food but can also be used for fighting. Sadly, the elephant’s tusk is also what puts it at risk of poaching. The decline in elephant populations is impacting the entire ecosystem: elephants maintain the health of the soil through their dung, they maintain the grassy plains by eating young tress and also help spread and germinate tree seeds across their long journeys. 

But we can join the many organizations, governments, and individuals working to reverse their population decline. 

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This spiked, unique-looking animal is known as the

short-beaked echidna,

or the “spiny anteater.” 

What makes the reproductive behavior of short-beaked echidnas unique? 

Short-beaked Echidnas are some of the only mammals who lay eggs. 

They also thrive in a variety of climates, which puts them at an impressive advantage in the face of human-induced climate change; however, what truly allows them to persist is legal protection in Australia.  

The short-beaked Echidna is the perfect example of how conservation efforts can draw attention to lawmakers who can make tangible change in the protection of animals and ecosystems. Without this law in place, echidnas would have much less protection and likely be in danger of extinction. 

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The Maned Wolf may look like a typical wolf,

but it certainly doesn’t behave like one.

Unlike other species of wolves, the maned wolf does not howl, nor does it form packs or hunt large prey.  

What do you think the maned wolf eats? 

The maned wolf sticks to

fruits and smaller mammals

for their diet. 

You might have also noticed their long legs, lifting them above the grass. These are what gives them the name of the “fox on stilts.” 

Like the lion to the Serengeti, the maned wolf is one of the Cerrado region’s apex predators, meaning it has no natural predators. However, human activity surrounding the region has made an impact on the ecosystem and put maned wolves in danger. Not only is land conversion and deforestation a harmful practice, but also the occurrence of retaliatory killings is an issue.

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Up ahead we can see what is known as the

Eastern black rhinoceros.

Let’s check him out! But we’ll make sure to remain in the vehicle, a safe distance away so we don't disturb him. 

How much do you think he weighs? 

As you can see, the Eastern black rhinoceros is a massive animal.They typically weigh up to 

1.4 tonnes, or 3,000 pounds! 

Although they might look intimidating, they play a nurturing role in the ecosystem. Rhinos feed on the leaves from bushes and trees, helping to shape and maintain the savannah’s landscape. Local communities benefit from them as well through what we’re doing right now—sustainable ecotourism! 

Despite the benefits that they provide, poachers often illegally hunt them to sell their horns on the black market. Although they have made a significant comeback, their numbers dropped by 98% between 1960 and 1995. And as we’ve learned, a decrease in population doesn’t just affect the rhinos; it threatens the entire food chain. 

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A staple to the savannah in Northern Australia is

the wallaby.

Although these furry friends might look small, their legs give them the ability to jump great distances. 

And as for their elongated faces, it leaves room for large, flat teeth that help them chew their meals. 

How high do you think wallabies can jump? 

These little wallabies can jump up to a shocking

30 meters/10 feet. 

Although wallabies are primarily found in Northern Australia, they are dependent on the specific traits of the ecosystem that are shared by every savannah around the world. Sparsely populated trees and ample room for shrubs with access to sunlight are characteristics wallabies could not thrive without. As eaters of shrubs and grasses, they also help to manage the populations of these plants. 

Looks like there is a lizard up ahead. Should we pay her a visit? 

We hope you enjoyed your tour of the Serengeti!

{NAME}, while you had the chance to witness some of the savannah’s most cherished animals and plants,

the unfortunate reality is that savannahs have declined over the past decades due to climate change and land conversion.   

In the past, savannah conservation has been traditionally overlooked because of its proximity to better known ecosystems like tropical rainforests and coral reefs. 

But savannahs, which operate similarly to these other systems, are important not only for their abundance of life, but for their 

tourism generation,

carbon storage, 

and medicinal plant provision.  

Each one of us can play a role in protecting savannahs by learning about their importance, appreciating them responsibly, and sharing with others what we’ve learned about their benefits and how to preserve them. 

 

You've completed the tour!

You've seen Australia's beautiful and diverse savannah, {NAME}.

Northern Australia’s savannah ecosystem may have its own unique, special organisms,

but like all savannahs, it is fragile—

land conversion,

climate change,

poaching,

and other human activities,

pose serious threats to the delicate nature of this ecosystem. 

These threats come at a cost: savannahs regulate the climate, and they provide people with economic, cultural, and medicinal benefits.

Their preservation is directly linked to our own livelihoods, health, and well-being! 

 

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By now, you’re likely used to the color scheme of the savannahs—the tan colors of the shrubs, the occasional greens of the trees—but now we see red!

This brilliant red shrub that stands out in the Cerrado is known as the

“cigana-do-Cerrado.”  

How tall do you think this shrub grows to be? 

The cigana-do-Cerrado typically grows to be

2 to 2.5 meters / 6 to 8 feet.

While this shrub stands out for its physical beauty, it is also of great value to the many grazers of the savannah ecosystem. What’s more, the cigana-do-Cerrado is able to thrive thanks to the specific spacing of the trees in the savannah ecosystem that allow light to reach the ground. 

Human-induced climate change has the potential to reshape the landscape and, in turn, wipe out the cigana-do-Cerrado.  

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Savannahs provide a home for a range of herbivores (animals who eat only plants). 

But herbivore numbers are kept in balance by predators so that they don’t overgraze. 

The lion you can see

up ahead is at the top of the food chain. 

How many lions do you think live in the Serengeti National Park? 

The Serengeti holds the largest population of lions in Africa, with around

3,000 of them! 

These magnificent big cats hunt and eat gazelles, buffalo, zebras, and other mammals, so disturbances that hurt prey populations jeopardize lions as well. Lion populations across Africa are in decline as their habitat is reduced. Humans sometimes hunt lions for sport, and commercial safaris that do not promote sustainability and eco-friendliness have a bad habit of disturbing the wildlife. 

Eco-friendly tourism that acknowledges the fragile nature of the Serengeti’s lion populations can help everyone in the long run! 

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This large, predatory lizard

known as the Goanna 

is a highly adaptable species who lays its eggs in a nest and burrows for protection. 

Since they are so adaptable, they can thrive in a variety of environments—some can even climb trees!  

How do you think Goannas find their prey? 

Goannas use their tongue before prey ever reaches their mouth!

They’re impressive eaters, but food is also related to their scary reputation. When commercial tourist companies encourage guests to feed Goannas, the lizards can harm humans. 

Thankfully you’ve opted for an animal-friendly tour of the savannah! 

Welcome to the Cerrados of Brazil!  

The Cerrado is a vast tropical savannah that is home to ample biodiversity. 

Unlike other savannah regions, only 2.2% of the Cerrado is legally protected, making it all-the-more vulnerable to devastation. 

Let’s take a journey through this unique Brazilian savannah to see first-hand what it has to offer,

and why protecting it is more important now than ever.   

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What’s that in the sky? These bold, beautiful parrots known as

hyacinth macaws

used to travel in flocks of hundreds of thousands; nowadays, we are lucky even to be seeing one of them.  

How many hyacinth macaws do you think remain in the wild today? 

Sadly, there are only between

2,500 and 5,000 birds

remaining in the wild. The story of the hyacinth macaw decline is one that, like many others, is rooted in poaching.

The parrot species was almost poached into extinction due to illegal pet trade, and it was thanks to concentrated conservation efforts that turned traffickers into protectors and saved the species. It is stories like this from which we can learn that if a concentrated effort is put forth, change is possible. 

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As we continue to drive through the savannah, you’ve probably noticed strange trees with small oval leaves. 

These are Acacia trees, 

emblematic landmarks of the savannah ecosystem. 

Are Acacia trees native to Africa, or were they introduced? 

Acacias are native to Africa 

and have evolved to withstand this harsh ecosystem’s fires and droughts. Their sparse population allows light to reach the ground so shrubs and grasses can thrive. Acacias can emit ethylene gas as a distress signal, prompting browsing animals to move on; neighboring acacias will then pump tannins into their leaves to encourage further migration from the area.

Increased temperatures and rainfall due to climate change can cause more frequent fires or excessive tree growth, preventing grass and shrubs from thriving and, in turn, harming the animals who eat them. 

Speaking of animals, I see one ahead! What could it be? 

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Savannahs are home to some of the most unique, interesting tree species the planet has to offer, and the Northern Australian savannah is no exception. Up ahead we see a

eucalyptus tree, 

native to Australia and the primary source of food for koala bears.  

How do you think humans use eucalyptus trees? 

Eucalyptus trees are unique not only in their physical characteristics and abilities to thrive in dry climates, but also in their

medicinal benefits

to humans. Humans have long relied on eucalyptus to treat a variety of topical ailments like inflammation! 

As you can see, the health of savannahs is directly related to our own health. 

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We’ve spotted our first creature—

a Giant Armadillo! 

These spectacular creatures are the largest and rarest armadillos in the world, and we’re lucky to catch a glimpse of them. 

Why is it so rare to see them? 

Giant Armadillos are nocturnal,

and do spend a decent amount of time underground. These creatures are known as “ecosystem engineers”, burrowing into the ground in search of both creatures to eat and places to sleep. When other animals see these burrows, they use them as refuge from potential predators and other threats. 

Although its actions protect dozens of other species, the Giant Armadillo faces danger every day. Different human activities such as hunting,  busy roads, agricultural pesticides, and fires pose a serious threat to the well-being of these animals. It’s important to protect them so the entire ecosystem remains balanced. 

Congratulations!

{NAME}, you’ve had a taste of the fruitful diversity and specialties of the

Brazilian Cerrado. 

Now you can play a role in protecting it! 

Unfortunately, although the Cerrado is home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, 97.8% of it is unprotected and vulnerable to land conversion.

Especially considering the rises in food demand that will come in the next decades, there will be even more pressure to convert savanna into agricultural land.  

And the impacts will not stop at biodiversity: savannahs provide a multitude of ecosystem services that are crucial to the well-being of the planet.

They regulate the climate, and they provide people with economic, cultural, and medicinal benefits. 

By protecting savannahs, we protect our own well-being.