The Tanzanian government has approved a major highway construction program that will bisect the northern Serengeti. It’s disaster. We need your help, now.
Click here to join the growing list of individuals and organizations opposing this move.
The US$480 million highway will travel just east and south of Ngorongoro Crater and around the eastern side of the Serengeti, cutting into the park east to west just north of the Kenyan border.
The road will sever a critical corridor for the annual migration of hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, zebra and other animals. It is absolutely reminiscent of the 1980s veterinarian fence that effectively ended the great wildebeest migration in Botswana.
The Serengeti’s principal donor and scientific NGO, The Frankfurt Zoological Society, says, “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.”
(Contrary to many media reports, it will not link the Serengeti with Kenya’s Mara. In fact last week Tanzania’s tourist officials pointedly denied a Kenyan report that the Sand Rivers border post at the Serengeti/Mara junction will open.
The highway will decrease the time it takes to drive from the Serengeti into the Mara through the Isbenia border post. Currently it takes approximately 5 hours to drive from the Serengeti’s Grumeti Gate into the Mara’s Isbenia gate. From the new gate exit in the northwest part of the Serengeti currently planned, this driving time to the Mara’s Isbenia Gate would be reduced to less than 3 hours.
Facilitating easier access between these two giant wildernesses is good, but in no conceivable way could justify this wild atrocity.)
Currently, the Serengeti/Mara/Ngorongoro ecosystem is a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site. This designation would be lost if the highway construction commences. This in turn will decrease ancillary operating revenues for the park and likely jeopardize the fragile anti-poaching programs currently in place.
This terrible development is not a surprise. Human/animal conflicts in Africa are growing and in East Africa were exacerbated by the last three years of bad weather and poor rains. Elections in Tanzania and Uganda, and a constitutional referendum in Kenya are fueling the debate. I concur completely with many politicians in these countries that for far too long the western world has ignored the serious problems arising from supporting tourism parks while not adequately developing the local populations, particularly those on the periphery of these areas.
But this is not the answer.
A modern road is absolutely needed between the city centers of northern Tanzania and Lake Victoria, the mission of this new road. Several alternatives exist for longer highways that would skirt the ecosystem altogether.
Since they would travel through more populated areas, you would think that these alternatives are attractive to the Tanzanian government.
The Frankfurt Zoological Society claims the alternate routes would not cost more, but local media reports have suggested otherwise. The lack of hard data is frustrating, but I think this may be part of a dangerous game of chicken Tanzania is playing with NGOs and foreign donors.
Please help. Click here to add your voice to the opposition, then petition your lawmakers and wildlife NGOs to help Tanzania raise the added funds for the alternate routes.