Serengeti Watch Again

If we cant stop this fiasco, ….

Scientists around the world agree – this ill-conceived project would destroy a priceless world heritage that has been protected by the people of Tanzania since the birth of their country. It would also cause grave danger to their entire tourist industry. See this economic impact statement.

A World Heritage Site in Danger

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 (meaning a collapse to far less than a quarter of its current population and most likely the end of the great migration).

– The Frankfurt Zoological Society. Read entire article!

The planned highway (in red on the map) will cut across a pristine and remote wilderness area of the Serengeti. It carves a swath across the migration path of millions of animals, shown by the colored arrows. This is not a track or a road — it’s a high speed highway for trucks that could eventually reach hundreds a day! Traffic will inevitably grow more and more frequent, invasive, and damaging as time goes on.

Left: Survey markers already are in place. Photo: Nikki Waterhouse

According to Tanzania’s own 10-year management plan, painstakingly developed in 2005 by scientists, Park officials, and conservation organizations, the area in the northwestern part of the Park is particularly sensitive. As shown on the map below, the area of the proposed highway cuts right through areas designated by the Management Plan as “Low Use” and “Wilderness” zones. The Low Use Zone “will have a lower number and density of visitors” and “more limited road network and lower bed capacity.”

The Wilderness Zone in green “is subject to minimal disturbance. As a result, visitor access will be restricted to walking safaris, with game viewing by vehicle prohibited. The only infrastructure permitted will be a limited number of access roads that can be used by SENAPA management and support vehicles for walking safari operations.”

These areas were not determined lightly. The management plan’s authors themselves state,

“There are significant management challenges facing the Serengeti National Park and its associated wildlife and the migration that contribute to the Park’s uniqueness and global importance.

The actions we take in the next ten years to address these pressures are certain to be critical to conserving those unique aspects of the Serengeti that we all hold dear, and to our ability to fulfill the pledge made by Tanzania’s First President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, to conserve our precious heritage for the benefit of future generations.

— Serengeti 10-year General Management Plan, 2005

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A Threat to the Greatest Migration on Earth
The northern Serengeti is the most remote and pristine are in the entire ecosystem. Located near the Kenya border, it is the main route for the great wildebeest migration, and is also an important elephant migration area.

The wildebeest photo was taken on May 31, 2010, in nearly the exact place where the proposed Serengeti highway would bisect this part of Serengeti and Loliondo. Not far from this spot there are survey ribbons hanging on trees.

The Tanzanian government’s own impact study states that there will be 800 vehicles a day by the year 2015, and 3,000 a day by 2035. That would be more than a million vehicles a year! Experts say that even these figures have been understated.

In the short term, heavy truck traffic will result in: loss of wildlife and human life through accidents, fragmentation of habitat and alteration of water and soil systems, and increased introduction of animal disease and alien plant life.

The highway will be a convenient pathway for increased poaching by organized gangs. They will be especially interested in the thirty-two black rhinos being introduced by the Frankfort Zoo in the next few years.

One of the introduced rhinos recently ended up like this.

But the long term impact will be worse, as population and development grow…

Areas to the west of the Serengeti are already heavily populated. The northwestern section of the Park is a critical area for wildebeest, which use it as a refuge for much of the year. A highway will add even more human population and development.

Areas to the east of the Serengeti will be radically transformed as people migrate there and change land use from cattle grazing to farming. These areas are crucial dispersal zones for the migrating herds.

A Better Way

There is already too much commercial traffic going through the central Serengeti on its way to western Tanzania. A route is needed to link this area, to be sure. The government of Tanzania must work for development and human welfare in all areas of the country. Preserving nature is not the only task. But the answer is not to carve out a permanent commercial corridor through a World Heritage Site. The net effect will be to damage Tanzania’s vital travel industry, destroy thousands of jobs, and end a heritage of protection in place since the country’s independence.

The choice is not be between people and nature. There is no need for Tanzania to sacrifice its most precious wilderness, or income from tourism, or its heritage.

A safer alternative route to the south can bypass the Serengeti altogether and provide more economic benefit for the people of Tanzania! It would connect with paved highways to western, central, and eastern regions of the country, serving several times the number of people.

See our discussion on the southern route.

A southern route around the Serengeti can preserve Tanzania’s greatest tourism asset and spare the devastation of a priceless World Heritage Site. With the help of the world community, Tanzania can find a way to preserve its inheritance, help bring prosperity to its people, and show the world that it still leads the way in conservation.

Possible Solutions:
The solution is to stop the northern highway from going forward and encouraging the adoption and funding of the southern route.

What’s Being Done:
Education and petitioning of the Tanzanian government. Conservation organizations, the travel industry, and individuals are starting to work together to stop the highway.

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