The government of Tanzania has approved a major commercial highway across Serengeti National Park in the direct path of the park’s world-famous wildlife migration routes. Conservationists and members of the travel industry strongly oppose the construction, arguing that such a highway would be devastating to the Serengeti’s fragile ecosystem and would therefore negatively impact Tanzania’s tourism industry and income.
The planned high-speed commercial highway would link the Lake Victoria region with eastern Tanzania, cutting across a particularly sensitive remote wilderness area and seriously interrupting the migration paths of millions of animals, especially wildebeest and elephants.
Experts at the Frankfurt Zoological Society have studied the potential impacts of this project and believe that “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.”
Tanzania’s Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Shamsa Mwangunga, dismisses fears that the road would disturb the annual wildlife migration. In an interview with the Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen, the minister said the main reason for the road construction was “the need to satisfy public interests.”
However, wildlife activists, also cited in The Citizen, have pointed out that the inevitable increase in traffic “might become the highest risk to the wildebeest migration and the integrity of the Serengeti as the number one natural wonder of the world upon which Tanzania’s tourism depends.”
Because of the Serengeti’s importance to the tourism sector, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) has joined environmental activists in their fight against the Tanzanian government’s plans. “This threat to the Serengeti, a major commercial highway across the Serengeti National Park, is of great concern to us and many of our members,” said ATTA President Shannon Stowell in the organization’s Call to Action. “We’re hoping for an alternative plan that can still serve commercial needs but recognizes that this is an irreversible and destructive change to one of the world’s most valuable wildlife destinations.”
Organizers of the Save the Serengeti campaign propose an alternate southern route around the Serengeti that offers equal opportunities for economic development without putting Tanzania’s greatest tourism asset and natural treasure in jeopardy.
Not much time remains: Reports from the field say that pink ribbons have already been placed, demarcating where the road will be built.
The petition to stop the Serengeti Highway can be signed here: www.savetheserengeti.org/.
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