The wildebeest of East Africa, have begun their amazing mass migration early this year. Knowing that they are very intelligent animals, we wonder if they have sensed the current threat to their future?
The Government of Tanzania has approved a major commercial highway that will cut across part of the Serengeti National Park, in the direct path of the ancient wildlife migration routes. Such a highway has the potential to destroy the integrity of a priceless world heritage that has been protected by the people of Tanzania since the birth of their country.
Jiri, Intrepid Reservation Specialist and former Africa safari guide, writes:
“It’s literally a bloody disaster if this goes ahead and hundreds of trucks will cut through Serengeti day and night. It will have a similar impact on wildlife as other major roads that run through national parks in Africa. During my 3 years in Africa, I have seen this happen in National Parks elsewhere – Queen Elizabeth in Uganda, Mikumi in Tanzania, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi in South Africa, and Greater Chobe in Botswana. African truck drivers don’t stop for wildlife and it won’t matter whether the road is made from tarmac or just dirt, they will still speed.
Now imagine if you have roughly a million wildebeest trying to cross a busy road. If they are not killed or maimed on the road, they will be susceptible to poachers, who will soon use the road and snatch anything that moves. Animal disease is another potential problem, as wildebeest are easily infected by simple viral infections common in domestic stock and if trucks are allowed to carry cattle through the park, then we might be facing absolute environmental disaster if something goes wrong.
The Tanzanian government argues that the road through the Serengeti will be only 40 miles long. This is true, but Serengeti is part of a much greater picture. The road as it is currently proposed, will pass through not just the park itself, but also through neighbouring Ngorongoro Conservation Area, passing Lake Natron and onto Lake Manyara, which are important parts of the elephant migration route. Hunger for ivory is far greater in Tanzania then anywhere else in Africa and if one of the road contracts are won by a Chinese company, then we might as well wave the elephant population of Northern Tanzania ‘good-bye’.
What about locals and will they benefit from the proposed new road? Absolutely not. This particular region is sparsely populated and primarily by Masaai who are mostly nomadic. The alternative southern route, which is outside of the national park and conservation areas is quite a different story. It would certainly lift the region economically as trucks will be able to travel, not just to Arusha, but also directly to Dodoma. It would cost much less too, as they would just need to repair and widen existing roads.
So to sum it up, Professor Bernhard Grzimek once very famously said “Serengeti shall not die”. He shook hands with then Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, who promised to preserve Serengeti for future generations at any cost. The same Nyerere whom is a great idol to the current president, who often boasts about his love for animals, whatever this might mean. Serengeti is one of the few places on Earth that can boldly be called the “last paradise for animals, the last true wilderness”. We must do anything we can to keep it this way.
As warned by The Frankfurt Zoological Society: “The entire Serengeti will change into a completely different landscape holding only a fraction of its species and losing its world-class tourism potential and its status as the world’s most famous National Park – an immense backlash against the goodwill and conservation achievements of Tanzania.”
For more information and to sign a petition, please visit www.savetheserengeti.org. You can also sign petitions at www.change.org and on the change.org Facebook page. The Serengeti needs your support today!
* photo by David Lazar – Intrepid Photography Competition