Bernhard Grzimek, Serengeti Shall Not Die (1959)


This sequence shows how a wild animal census could be conducted from an aircraft. With his new aerial counting method, Bernhard Grzimek estimated the large animal population of the Serengeti at 367,000, down from the previous estimate of over one million. Aerial observation also made it possible to determine the migration routes of various animals. Serengeti National Park could thus be demarcated on a “natural” basis, and these natural borders played a role in the political demarcation proposed by the British Mandate Administration in 1959, when the Serengeti was separated from the Ngorongoro Nature Reserve.


Serengeti Shall Not Die

To get started, we divide the whole area of Serengeti National Park into individual sections and take them one by one. Every day we fly over one of them; our flight path is a series of parallel lines.

It’s not easy to divide the park into sections because there are no actual maps of this wilderness yet. So, we have to find our own borders, such as dry riverbeds, individual bushes, or mountains on the distant horizon.

We are well-practiced in counting entire groups of animals at a glance. There are two of us on each side [of the plane]; we count and then enter our [separate] tallies into a list immediately. Afterwards we compare our results.

Translation: GHI staff

Source: Bernhard Grzimek, *Serengeti darf nicht sterben* (1959). OKAPIA KG Michael Grzimek & Co.

© OKAPIA KG Michael Grzimek & Co

Bernhard Grzimek, Serengeti Shall Not Die (1959), published in: German History Intersections, <> [November 30, 2023].