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.
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.
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)
Director, Habitat and Highways Program
Director, International Conservation Program