The African savanna is one of the richest grasslands in the world. It passes through 27 countries, and is home to almost 50 species of mammals and 500 species of birds. Many of the larger species, such as giraffes and elephants, have evolved to take advantage of the wealth of grasses that grow there. When humans use the grasslands to graze their cattle, the grass dries out and dies. Some land then turns to desert, while other areas are vulnerable to fires that destroy the land. Overgrazing of the land, poaching and human use of precious resources has caused several savanna animals to become endangered.
The black rhino is one of the most endangered animal in the world--there were fewer than 3,200 in the world in 2001, most of which live on wildlife preserves. Even there, poachers kill them for their horns, which some people believe have medicinal value. Since the poachers make a lot of money selling the horns, these animals will continue to be hunted.
Even though it is illegal, African elephants are hunted for their tusks, their meat and skin. Loss of habitat due to human expansion also threatens the African elephant population. Most elephants in the savanna today are living on wildlife preserves, but the parks are not large enough to support the population.
The only lions that exist in Africa savannas are in protected nature preserves. Between the preserves and zoos, the lion population is holding steady, but they are still endangered. Hunting and loss of habitat still plague the lions, and they are vulnerable to disease carried by domestic dogs.
Grevy's zebras differ from other zebra species in the way their stripes cover their skin. Grevy's stripes are narrower and continue to the hooves. They are endangered due to loss of habitat to humans who use their land to graze cows. Humans also use the scarce water for crops, leaving little for the zebras to drink.
Nearly as endangered as the black rhino, the African wild dog has a population that is under 5,000. Farmers poach them to save their livestock and hunters desire the colorful pelt. Since they require a large hunting ground, conservation of this species is extremely challenging.