photo: Mandy via flickr
Plans by the Tanzanian government to run a road through the northern part of the Serengeti National Park have been drawing criticism from a whole host of conservationists. Even though the part of the proposed Loliondo-Serengeti-Mugumu highway which actually runs through the park would be, for now, just a two lane dirt track, famed conservationist Richard Leakey says it will eventually end the millennia-old and world famous annual wildebeest migration. In WildlifeDirect's Baraza blog, Leakey commented that the purpose of the highway is to grow two towns on Lake Victoria: "A dirt track may suffice today--after all, the populations of these two towns are only about half a million people each. Projecting forward 50 years, and thanks to the new roads, these towns will become cities of 3-4 million people each. The Tanzanians should not be assessing the impact of a narrow strop of road as we envision it today; it will not be a narrow strip of road in 30 to 40 years, that's for sure. There will be a railway line that will parallel it, and there will probably be a 6 lane highway in each direction. This, for certain, will kill the migration."
Leakey contends that if that road becomes too difficult to cross because of a continuous line of traffic in either direction, the wildebeest won't make the crossing, and they will be turned back in fear of the road. If the animals cannot complete their migration they will be forced to overgraze their existing range in Tanzania and this will lead to a population crash, and the migration will disappear for all time. (Mongabay)
For the government's part, the Tanazanian Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Shamsa Mwangunga, has said the road will be routed in a manner that will not affect wildlife migration.
map: Save the Serengeti
Alternate, Longer Routes Proposed
As you can see in the map above, alternate routes have been proposed, which though more expensive in that they would be longer to travel and construct. Leakey also suggests alternatively, that any road crossing the Serengeti be elevated so as to allow for animals freely moving below it, and as a way of increasing tourism revenues.
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