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Stop the Serengeti Highway
The Tanzania government has made plans to build a commercial highway across the Serengeti National Park that will connect the area around Lake Victoria with eastern Tanzania. This project threatens to destroy The Serengeti National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most incredible wildlife sites in the world. The annual wildebeest migration is one of the greatest wildlife shows on Earth. Nearly 2 million wildebeests and zebras are accompanied by gazelles, lions, and hyenas, among other animals as the herds go on a 500 km round trip from the southern Serengeti to the northern edge of the Masai Mara in Kenya. The Serengeti Highway will have a huge negative impact on the park's ecosystem, cause a decline in the tourism industry of Tanzania, and would result in a terrible loss for the nation.
The Frankfurt Zoological Society put out the following statement last June regarding the proposed Serengeti Highway:
“We sincerely believe that the road will have disastrous effects on the entire ecosystem. The northern parts of the Serengeti and the adjacent Masai Mara are critical for the wildebeest and zebra migration during the dry season, as it is the only permanent year-round water source for these herds. Recent calculations show that if wildebeest were to be cut off from these critical dry season areas, the population would likely decline from 1.3 million animals to about 200,000.”
They go on to say that the highway will intersect an area with the highest concentration of large mammals in the world, meaning that fencing will be needed to protect vehicles. This fencing would prohibit the animals from reaching their only water source during the dry season, the Mara River. Another example of this was seen when Botswana put up fences that cut of the migration routes of the wildebeest and zebras, causing the death of thousands of animals. The fenced off highway will force the animals to overgraze in the south, inevitably depleting their resources and greatly reducing the size of the herds. The highway will destroy the life cycle of the species and wreak havoc on the ecosystem of the national park.The planned commercial road, a promise by President Jakaya Kikwete during his campaign in the 2005 election, will serve as a link between East African ports and the fast developing Central African countries. As trade growth rises rapidly in Africa, transportation will increase significantly in coming years resulting in a huge number of trucks crossing the Serengeti daily. According to a recent article in The East African, the government claims the highway will not stop the great migration, having a 40 mile stretch of unpaved road. However, scientists predict that with thousands of vehicle passing a day the migration will definitely be affected.
Pressure is mounting on the Tanzanian government to change the course of the highway. Controversy over the commercial highway has caused a protest from scientists, conservationists, the international travel industry, and tourists. The international community is attempting to sway the course of the highway. For example, the German government has said they would put money into an alternative route, which would mean building roads in the areas boarding the Serengeti without cutting through the park. The World Bank also stated that it would help finance an alternative route that would not cut through the park. Despite these offers the Tanzanian government appears to be moving ahead with the highway as planned.
There is no need to destroy the ecosystem of the Serengeti or limit the economic benefit of the highway for the people of Tanzania. Yes, a route is needed to link the areas but it is unnecessary to put the highway through one of the most pristine wildlife areas in the world. The highway will result in the loss of wildlife, fragmentation of habitats, alteration of water and soil systems, increased introduction of animal disease, and a decrease in the Tanzania ecotourism industry. The Serengeti highway would be devastating. A southern route could protect the wildlife while still providing the economic benefits of easier trade for the people of Tanzania. An alternative course around the park can help preserve the World Heritage site, as well as Tanzania's crucial travel industry. Visit savetheserengeti.org to learn more about how you help.