For untold centuries
Migration has taken place
In the area known as the Serengeti.
A great moving mass of mammals,
Wildebeest, antelope and zebra
Covered the plain as far as the eye could see.
Spectacular, astounding – words fail…
A broad river of beasts
Driven by hardship and instinct:
The will to survive.
There are plans afoot
To interfere with nature
And someone will undoubtedly
Suffer the consequences.
©DGA 15 August 2011 09:31
Around October, nearly two million herbivores travel from the northern hills toward the southern plains, crossing the Mara River, in pursuit of the rains. In April, they then return to the north through the west, once again crossing the Mara River. This phenomenon is sometimes called the Circular Migration.
Some 250,000 wildebeest die during the journey from Tanzania to Maasai Mara Reserve in lower Kenya, a total of 800 kilometres (500 mi). Death is usually from thirst, hunger, exhaustion, or predation. The migration is chronicled in the 1994 documentary film, Africa: The Serengeti. In early 2007 J.Michael Fay had found another large migration in Southern Sudan, of about 800,000 kob and tiang, which now rivals the migration in the Serengeti.
Proposed Serengeti Road Could Halt Migration
When you think of Serengeti National Park you think of vast landscapes dotted with millions of wildebeest, gazelles, lions and even the elusive rhino. One of the largest draws for people to the Serengeti is the annual migration these animals take to find fertile grasslands. Now imagine the Serengeti cut in two by a 300 mile road. Would the migration continue despite the new road? Would animals and drivers be killed in wildlife-vehicle collisions due to increased traffic? Would the possibility of poaching increase in an area that is already struggling to control the illegal practice? Would the Serengeti continue to be the thriving ecosystem that is considered one of the greatest natural wonders of the world?
We could see this scenario play out if the Tanzanian government goes forward with its plan to build a road across the Serengeti. The proposed road would connect key towns by Lake Victoria and eastern Tanzania. Although the proposal is for a gravel road, it is believed that with increased mobility between towns, it is only a matter of time before the road is paved. Paving will increase the speed as well as the amount of traffic and therefore increase the threats to wildlife.
The consequences of this proposed road would be catastrophic for the Serengeti, so much so that it risks permanently ending the annual migrations. The road would become a physical barrier for the migration, either by creating such as nuisance that the animals won’t cross or by causing deadly accidents if they do attempt the crossing. Is there a way to mitigate these negative effects so the road can be built and the migrations can continue? Unfortunately, no. Any form of fencing to keep animals from crossing the road would only create another barrier to the migration or could entangle animals that attempt to cross. Over and underpasses would not be used by over a million animals running on their frantic migration.
Because of the devastating effects this road would have on the Serengeti, international conservation experts have begun speaking out against the proposal. The World Bank has offered funds to build a road around the southern portion of the park, but the Tanzanian government is sticking to the initial plans. Construction of the highway is expected to begin in 2012.
For more information check out these links:
The Guardian: Serengeti Highway Threatens National Park’s Wildebeest Migration Business Daily Africa: Controversy Over Serengeti Road Plan Deepens The Telegraph: Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park Facing ‘Collapse’ Due to Highway Plans Global Post: Tanzania: Highway Threatens Serengeti Migration
Defenders of Wildlife
About the TransWild Alliance:
The TransWild Alliance is a coalition of conservation advocacy organizations dedicated to reducing the impacts of highways on wildlife and natural resources.