Wednesday, November 10, 2010
‘Save the Serengeti’
“The Serengeti”: scene of so many nature programs on TV (based on so many more real-life events in this huge Tanzanian national park, which is also a Unesco World Heritage site). We have watched in awe as great herds of grazers -- wildebeest, zebras, gazelles – move over the grasslands, “with lions and hyenas stalking them and vultures circling above,” as described in the NYTimes on Oct. 31.
Countless other animals, elephants to rare rhinos and leopards to birds, along with plants, are all part of an eons-old ecological web that has long been undisturbed. Until now.
Now, there are plans for a “national highway straight through the Serengeti park, bisecting the migration route and possibly sending a thick stream of overloaded trucks and speeding buses through the traveling herds.” The proposed highway route would stretch some 300 miles in the northern part of the park.
Just fancy that on some future TV special: an internal combustion traffic jam in the Serengeti. Too bad about those animals whose migration trails are in their genes. Tough luck for the creatures who don’t know to get out of the way of a belching bus or a jeep full of joy-riding tourists.
Introduction of invasive plant forms via increased vehicular traffic and easier access to animals for poachers, who could speed in and out on the highway, are just two other outcomes being predicted by conservationists.
It’s claimed that this road will be a good thing for native people. However, despite anti-road protests around the world, including websites such as SavetheSerengeti.org, Tanzania officials say they are not interested in an alternative route south of the park.
Will this highway become a reality, threatening the animals who have traversed the Serengeti since ancient times?