Despite protests from environmental activists and conservationists from around the globe, the Tanzanian government has approved a $480 million project that will include building a highway through the Serengeti that will pass directly through the route of the Great Migration, a natural annual event that sees millions of animals pass between the country’s Serengeti National Park and Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve.
The new road is expected to be the busiest in northern Tanzania once it is complete, linking up the towns of Arusha and Musoma. The government has repeatedly said that it is necessary to continue the growth of trade in that area, allowing the nation’s economy to expand. Meanwhile, wildlife experts have expressed concerns from the moment the project was announced back in May, fearing the increased traffic will disrupt the largest animal migration on the planet. As a compromise, the plan has been adjusted so that a 50km section which passes through the migration route will now not be paved all, but will instead remain a gravel road.
The Serengeti is Tanzania’s number one tourist attraction, bringing thousands of visitors each year and generating millions of dollars in revenues for the country. Most come to take in the spectacular wildlife, which includes more than 2 million wildebeests who drive the annual migration. They are joined by thousands of zebras, elephants, and giraffes, as well as predators such as hyenas and lions, as they make a seasonal move that coincides with the changing of the wet and dry seasons, and the shift in location of food and water sources.
Having witnessed the migration first hand and explored the Serengeti personally, I can say that this news saddens me quite a bit. It is one of my favorite places on the planet, and the thought of anything negatively impacting the natural environment there is disheartening to say the least. Hopefully the increased traffic will do little to impact the animals, but I can’t help but think that this is yet another example of man encroaching on one of the last great wildernesses on Earth.