Chapters :

Monsoons – 03

  • The savanna is known as the ‘big game country’ as thousands of animals are trapped or killed each year by people from all over the world.
  • There are two main groups of animals in the savanna, the grass-eating herbivorous animals and the fleshing-eating carnivorous animals.
  • The herbivorous include the zebra, antelope, giraffe, deer, gazelle, elephant etc. [most of the National geographic and Animal Planet documentaries on wild animals are shot in savanna regions] and carnivorous animals include the lion, tiger, leopard, hyena, panther, jaguar, jackal etc..
  • Species of reptiles and mammals including crocodiles, alligators, giant lizards live together with the larger rhinoceros and hippopotamus in rivers and marshy lakes.
Life and Economy in the Savanna
  • Many tribes live in savanna region. Tribes like the Masai tribes of the East African plateau are pastoralists whereas Hausa of northern Nigeria are settled cultivators.
  • The old grazing grounds of Masai tribes in the Kenyan Highlands were taken over by the immigrant white settlers for plantation agriculture (coffee, tea, cotton) and dairy farming.
  • The cattle kept by the Masai are kept entirely for the supply of milk. They don’t slaughter cattle for meat. Agriculture is barely practiced.
  • The Hausa are a tribe of settled cultivators who inhabit the savanna lands of the Nigeria. They are more advanced in their civilization.
  • They do not practice shifting cultivation. Instead, they clear a piece of land and use it for several years.
  • Settlements in central Africa, northern Australia and eastern Brazil have shown that the savannas have immense agricultural potential for plantation agriculture of cotton, cane sugar, coffee, oil palm, groundnuts and even tropical fruits.
  • Tropical Queensland, despite its scarcity of labour force has been very successful in developing its huge empty land.
  • Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi have already taken to large-scale production of cotton.
  • In West Africa, the commercial cultivation of groundnuts, oil palm and cocoa have been gradually extended into the savanna lands.
  • In the cooler highlands, temperate crops have been successfully raised.
  • Droughts are long due to unreliable rainfall.
  • Political instability hinders the development of agricultural infrastructure.
  • The Sudan Climate, with distinct wet-and-dry periods is also responsible for the rapid deterioration of soil fertility.
  • During the rainy season, torrential downpours of heavy rain cause leaching of nitrates, phosphates and potash.
  • During the dry season, intense heating and evaporation dry up most of the water.
  • Many savanna areas therefore have poor lateritic soils which are incapable of supporting good crops.
  • The savanna is said to be the natural cattle country and many of the native people are pastoralists.
  • But the quality of grass doesn’t support large scale ranching.
  • Grasses here are no match to nutritious and soft grasses of temperate grasslands.
  • The cattle varieties are also poor and yield little meat or milk.
  • The export of either beef or milk from the tropical grasslands is so far not important.
  • Few regions progressed with the adaptation of science and technology. Queensland has become Australia’s largest cattle producing state. Both meat and milk are exported.
    • Deserts are regions of scanty rainfall which may be hot like the hot deserts of the Saharan type or temperate as are the mid-latitude deserts like the Gobi.
  • The major hot deserts of the world are located on the western coasts of continents between latitudes 15º and 30ºN and S.
  • They include the Sahara Desert, the largest single stretch of desert, which is 3,200 miles from east to west and at least 1,000 miles wide.
  • The next biggest desert is the Great Australian Desert which covers almost half of the continent.
  • The other hot deserts are the Arabian Desert, Iranian Desert. Thar Desert, Kalahari and Namib Deserts.
  • In North America, the desert extends from Mexico to USA and is called by different names at different places, e.g. the Mohave Sonoran, Californian and Mexican Deserts.
  • In South America, the Atacama or Peruvian Desert is the driest of all deserts with less than 0.5 inches of rainfall annually.
  • The Patagonian Desert is more due to its ranshadow position on the leeward side of the lofty Andes than to continentality.
  • continentiality or rain-shadow effect. [Gobi desert is formed due to continentiality and Patagonian desert due to rain-shadow effect].
    • The hot deserts lie astride the Horse Latitudes or the Sub Tropical High Pressure Belts where the air is descending, a condition least favourable for precipitation of any kind to take place.
    • The relative humidity is extremely low, decreasing from 60 per cent in coastal districts to less than 30 per cent in the desert interiors.
    • Rain normally occurs as violent thunderstorms of the convectional type.
    • The deserts are some of the hottest spots on earth and have high temperatures throughout the year.
  • There is no cold season in the hot deserts and the average summer temperature is around 86ºF.
  • The highest shade temperature recorded is 136ºF on the 13 September 1922 at Al Azizia, 25 miles south of Tripoli, Libya, in the Sahara.
  • The annual range is 44ºF.
  • The diurnal range of temperature in the deserts is very great.
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