Serengeti highway would cause an ‘environmental disaster’

Wildebeest in the Serengeti

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Plans to build a highway through the Serengeti could spell disaster for 1.3 million wildebeest that call it home, scientists say.

The Tanzanian government have outlined a plan to build a two-lane road more than 50 kilometres through the northern part of the Serengeti, home of the last great wildebeest migration on Earth and one of the ten new wonders of the world.

The move has drawn significant criticism from conservation groups around the globe, several of which have formed a loose coalition to directly protest the highway.

This week, 27 biodiversity experts weighed in to the debate by condemning the plans, saying that the road “will cause an environmental disaster” in a report published in the journal Nature.

Along with road deaths major concerns include loss of habitat, fragmentation and the collapse of the Serengeti’s fragile ecosystem. Wildebeests play a crucial role in keeping predators at bay and maintaining the wide expanses of grass. A depleted population would increase the risk of bushfires and could see increased attacks on smaller creatures by lions, cheetahs and wild dogs, threatening their survival.

Both the experts and the savetheserengeti.org coalition group support an alternate route that runs far south of the historic area.

The international community first became aware of plans to build the highway in November last year, when the World Heritage Centre based in Paris was informed of the project and swiftly dispatched a letter to Tanzanian authorities expressing their concern.

The official Tanzanian reply, dated February 11 this year, allegedly justified the project on the grounds of economic development. It further expressed an intention to prioritise the project as part of a ten-year governmental program to improve the transport sector.

The state of roads in Tanzania has long been a topic of local frustration, with one resident calling the fifteen-hour drive from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza a “nightmare”.

Plans to build a road through the area were first tabled more than 20 years ago, but were shelved when an environmental impact assessment found it would have substantial negative environmental impacts.

Under the current plans, construction is set to begin next year.

[via ABC News]

View more: Take a look at some of the animals of the Serengeti in our gallery below.

1 comment on this postSubmit yours
  1. I wouldn’t want to risk the loss of these creatures.

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