Friday, 31 May 2013

New Serengeti Road proposal to go ahead?

Northern route Serengeti road divides biologists - Courtesy of The Norwegian University of Science and Technology(NTNU)
May 2013. Recent reports suggest that the Tanzanian Government has decided to build a road on the northern route across Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. Tanzania has a difficult decision to make, as the north west corner of Tanzania is a very poor region, with an average income per head of just $100, and is crying out for some form of economic boost. The Tanzanian Government will build a road, and it seems that this route is now the chosen one, though the money for the building of the road is not yet in place.

Serengeti National Park in Tanzania may be the most iconic national park in the world, where, lions, leopards, elephants, hippos and giraffes wander free. Rivers of wildebeests, zebra and Thompson's gazelles - more than 2 million all told - cross the landscape in one of the largest animal migrations on the planet.
Map courtesy of African Wildlife Foundation

While the park is ideally located for wandering wildebeests, its location is less than ideal for the region's residents. They see the undeveloped park as a formidable barrier to trade and travel. To address this, the Tanzania government now plans to build a gravel road across 50 km of the northern part of the park to link the country's coast to Lake Victoria and countries to the west, including Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

International outcry
Plans for the road have raised an international outcry. The fear is that the road, which bisects the wildebeest migration route near the Kenyan border, will bring an end to the annual migrations and irreversibly change the park. In September 2010, a coalition of 27 scientists published their objections in an opinion piece in Nature magazine. "The proposed road could lead to the collapse of the largest remaining migratory system on Earth," the scientists wrote, led by Andrew Dobson from Princeton University.

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