The sun sets behind the African savannah

Spectacular savannas

Elephants roam throughout African savannah plains

Open spaces and special places—that's what a savanna is. Savannas occur where there isn’t enough rain to support a tropical rain forest, but there is enough to keep it from becoming a desert. The open spaces of the world’s savannas are found mostly in the tropical areas of the globe. There is usually a dry season and a rainy season in the savanna, with strong, hot winds in the dry season and enough rain in the wet season to flood low-lying areas. Some examples of savanna habitat are the East African plains, the South American pampas, and the open woodlands of northern Australia.

Zebras graze along savannah plains

Anybody home?

Who calls a savanna home?

The savanna is home to large herds of grazing animals, like giraffes and elephants, and the predators that follow them, like cheetahs. You'll find many animals in a savanna, from reptiles and insects to ostriches. A savanna is a carefully balanced ecosystem that can easily be disturbed by changes in climate, an imbalance in the number and type of animal species, and human influences such as farming and cattle herding.

Wildfire burns shrubs in the African savannah

Out with the old...

Fire also has an important role in the savanna. It burns out old grass and new tree saplings, making way for the growth of new grasses that herbivores like gazelles depend upon. Can you think of other animals that would eat grass?

FUN FACT: The word "savanna" comes from the 16th-century word zavanna, which means "treeless plain."