VICTORY for the Serengeti!

Zebras migrate through Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

In February, we told you about the Tanzanian government’s plans to build a 300-mile highway through the northern part of Africa’s Serengeti National Park that would bisect the “Great Migration”– considered one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Every year, millions of wildebeest, zebra, elephants, rhinos and gazelles run with predators like cheetahs and lions across the vast landscape, instinctively searching for water. A road through the park would have devastated wildlife populations and surely put an end to the Great Migration forever.

A highway through the Serengeti would fragment habitat, obstruct migration routes, invite invasive species and disease, and cause countless vehicle collisions with wildlife. Without access to water during the dry season, the huge herds would dwindle to a fraction of their current size. Population calculations show that the number of wildebeest would plummet from 1.3 million animals to about 200,000–less than a quarter of the species’ current population.

An acacia tree at dusk under the Serengeti sky.

Slicing through the pristine and remote northwestern area of the park, the highway would also welcome poachers, gangs and unauthorized settlements and farming. Without constant oversight and law enforcement, poachers and gangs would use the highway as a drive-through to slaughter rare wildlife like the highly endangered black rhinos.

But we received very good news: Tanzania canceled plans to build the road through the park! According to a statement from the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, “The State Party confirms that the proposed road will not dissect the Serengeti National Park and therefore will not affect the migration and conservation values of the Property.” Plans still exist to pave the road up to the edge of the park and concerns remain for ongoing threats to the Serengeti lands and wildlife, but cancellation of this highway project gives us room to celebrate for now.

Lion cubs relax after lunch.

These days, victories for wildlife are few and far between.  Today, we give our sincere thanks to the people of Tanzania and their forward-thinking leader. Their wise decision to protect the wildlife of Serengeti and the Great Migration is a precious gift to the world.

Asante sana! (Thank you very much in Swahili)

Trisha White

Director, Habitat and Highways Program

Alejandra Goyenechea

Director, International Conservation Program

Categories: lion, rhinoceros, Wildlife

4 Responses to “VICTORY for the Serengeti!”

  1. James Andrew Snell

    Congrats! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Alexis de Vilar

    The “candid” letter adressed by Ezekiel Maigto to UNESCO headquarters is only a mere trick by Kikewte (and his “lovely” pal Lowassa) to mislead everyone and get away with their plans to start works, and most important for them: to start getting funds from donors… It is well known that African leaders (and also corrupted politicians in other parts of the world) do get a substantial commission free of taxes in Swiss banks or other tax free paradises for accepting “investment money”… The common percentage is 15% of the total money accepted… This may come as a surprise to many, but we all know it and considering the past record of Lowassa and Kikwete, they are not going to be an exception. In short, the “nice” letter to the UNESCO, allows them to: 1. Get the cash without further “interruptions” by activists. 2. Get their “percentage” in due course. 3. Go ahead with the highway, which now has less meaning, because if car and trucks CAN NOT cross the Serengeti being the unpaved road under TANAPA control and only for Nat. Park use, why then construct that highly expensive highway in the first place? 4. The trick will allow Lowassa (a traitor to the local Maasai being himself one of them…) and Kikwete to go ahead with the real reason behind the road, which is apart from capturing a “percentage” of the donor money, to get the soda ash plant under construction, which means another “percentage”, this time for the rest of their lives from the Indian investors related to Kikwete’s father in law… (see the Dar es Salaam press’s latest news on that…) 5. The soda ash plant and the road, will, on the other side, definitively destroy the Maasai cosmology, killing their culture and turning most of them into beggars as their ways of present subsistence will be sacrified for ever. In my recent visit to Lake Natron last April I talked to several Maasai chiefs, and their common roar was that the highway will increase the stealing of their cattle, as there is no way they can stop the hundreds of trucks, specially at night, from robbing freely. Also it will force those Maasai not willing to become askaris at the soda ash plant, to move further inland, where there is no water, and further bad news for them, it will completely stop the walking safaris to Ol Donyo lengai as visitors will look for more pristine pastures… Last but not least, does anybody with common sense believe that once the two sides of the highway being operational, that the remaining 53 kms. will not be paved anytime soon?

  3. Victoria Marshall

    I want to thank Defenders of Wildlife for all their help in making this GREAT VICTORY possible!! We on FB signed all your petitions and sent letters and money for your cause. Bless you!!

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