Back in July we posted a story about how the Tanzanian government had approved the construction of a new highway that would cut directly through the Serengeti National Park, which is home to a spectacular array of animal life. Officials explained how the new road was necessary in order to facilitate trade and continue economic development in the region, and that they expected the highway to have little impact on the Serengeti ecosystem. Unfortunately, the 290 scientists, from 32 different countries, who signed a recent petition, disagree with that sentiment.
Those scientists, who represent more than 50 different universities worldwide, are recommending that Tanzania find an alternate route around the Serengeti or face severe, negative, and irreversible damage to the environment there. Of most concern is how the increased traffic would impact the annual migration that takes place on the Serengeti plains during which time, millions of wildebeests, zebras, antelopes, and other animals travel across the region, playing an important role in helping the ecosystem to not only survive, but thrive. The fear is that if the migration is disrupted, it could lead to a complete collapse of that ecosystem.
The petition includes a survey of those same scientists in which they give their thoughts on a variety of topics in regards to the road. For instance, 85% of those surveyed said that they felt that it was either inevitable or very likely that the new highway would become a disruption or obstruction of the migration. Furthermore, 91% answered the same way when asked if they thought it would introduce invasive plants, animals, and diseases to the region.
The scientists join conservationists, international organizations, and the travel industry in condemning the plans to build the road. While all parties involved respect Tanzania’s desire to expand its economy, they also recognize that the Serengeti is a natural resource that is fragile and could easily be altered beyond repair.
While the local government is planning to move ahead with construction plans, the Save the Serengeti organization is still hoping to find an alternative solution. Personally, I hope they can too.