It’s being described as the greatest threat in the Serengeti's history — a commercial highway in the direct path of ancient wildlife migration routes.
The government of Tanzania recently approved a major commercial truck highway across the Serengeti National Park. The $480-million project plans to link the town of Arusha and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya, cutting through the Serengeti National Park, Isidori Shirima, Arusha Regional Commissioner said.
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 experts estimate will reach hundreds a day.
Conservation organizations have warned that this highway would be devastating.
The Frankfurt Zoological Society, which has been the primary supporter of the Serengeti for the past 50 years, has stated,
“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 entire Serengeti will change into a completely different landscape holding only a fraction of its species an 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."
In addition to conservation organizations, travel companies and tourism associations around the world are asking the government of Tanzania to stop the plan. David Blanton, part of a coalition opposed to the highway, says that this “threatens a priceless world heritage that has been protected by the people of Tanzania since the birth of their country. It would ultimately damage the image of Tanzania, it's tourist industry, and billions of shillings in foreign exchange needed for development.”
A Better Way
Opponents agree that there is already too much commercial traffic going through the central Serengeti on its way to western Tanzania, and say a route is needed to link this area. They recognize the government of Tanzania’s duty to work for development and human welfare in all areas of the country.
However, they are asking the government to adopt another proposal, which offers a safer alternative route to the south (in light green on the map) which bypasses Serengeti altogether.
The Frankfurt Zoological Society has distributed a presentation discussing the advantages of an alternative route. In terms of economic development, they say that more than five times as many people would be serviced by the southern route (2,278,000 people vs. 431,000 in the north.) The southern road passes through important agricultural areas in Tanzania, the northern road does not.
A website, Facebook page, and petitions are online giving more details and asking for support. The website link is: www.savetheserengeti.org
On the site, there is a link to the travel industry petition, as well as information on how individuals can get involved.
The website has background information on the highway and its impacts, as well as links to articles and official positions by the African Wildlife Foundation and Frankfurt Zoological Society. Also included in the site is information on an alternative route around the southern part of the Serengeti that preserves the ecosystem and provides service to a greater number of Tanzanians.
The Serengeti ecosystem is located in northwestern Tanzania and southern Kenya. It hosts the largest and longest overland migration in the world. Some two million wildebeest, zebras, and antelope make the annual trek each year between Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. It is widely regarded as the greatest wildlife spectacle on earth, and the Serengeti National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.