World Scientists Petition for Alternate Highway / Warn of Dangers

Save the Serengeti asked experts around the world to sign a petition asking the government of Tanzania to abandon plans for a northern route through the Serengeti and build an alternate route.  In addition a survey was included asking scientists to evaluate the likelihood of various impacts, and add their own information.

As of December 2, 2010 302 Scientists from 32 countries responded.

Click below to download the petition and survey, including petitioners’ names, organizations, and all comments on impacts.

Scientist Petition and Survey

SUMMARY – as of December 2, 2010

•    The petition states…  “the road will result in severe, negative, irreversible impacts, with little mitigation possible.”

•    It agrees with warnings by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and adds…  “The type of road surface matters little. The migration itself could easily collapse, with a devastating effect on all wildlife, the grasslands, and the entire ecosystem.”

•    The petition concludes by asking that an alternative route be found.

•    Included in the petition is a survey of likely negative impacts. Most scientists conclude that the collapse of the migration would be likely to inevitable.

•    Scientists also give background information on their own experience and reasons for believing that the Serengeti ecosystem would be in danger.


Results indicate that scientists believe these to be extremely serious. Many, in fact, concluded that the impacts, including the collapse of the wildebeest migration, would be inevitable. The impacts listed

Combined % Saying Inevitable, Extremely Likely, Very Likely

Disruption and obstruction of migration routes:                  85%
57% said it would be inevitable. 28% said extremely likely.

Introduction of invasive plants, animals, and disease:              91%
35% said inevitable. 67% said very likely or extremely likely.

Increased mortality due to wildlife-vehicle collisions:             98%
67% said inevitable. 21% said extremely likely.

Intensive, organized poaching, especially reintroduced rhino:         88%
32% said inevitable. 38% said extremely likely.

Loss of habitat from human settlement and agriculture:             87%
40% said inevitable. 32% said extremely likely.


Eventual collapse of migration:
54% said very or extremely likely. 17% said inevitable.                 71%

Results of Survey on Likely Impacts. Click to enlarge.

Samples of Comments on Impacts

John Sidle, Wildlife Biologist
US Forest Service, USA

I must assume that the government of Tanzania and its consultants have reviewed the large body of literature on this subject. In the United States almost all of the highways were constructed before we knew about the blocking effect that highways have on wildlife. We have a network of roads in the U.S. that has had the unintended consequence of slaughtering wildlife and curtailing seasonal movements. We now try to mitigate through overpasses and underpasses for wildlife on existing roads. But it is an expensive and problematic retrofit. I think that Tanzania should take advantage of the lessons learned in the U.S. and find a solution that avoids concentrations of wildlife such as in the Serengeti.

Dr. Richard Estes
IUCN Species Survival Commission, USA

For 47 years the wildebeest of the Serengeti ecosystem has been the focus of my studies of African mammals. In addition to observations of the 1.2 million wildebeest that live on the Serengeti short-grass plains during the rains between November and May, I have followed their movements at the end of the rains, which coincide with the annual rut. In recent years, increasing numbers of wildebeest have headed north instead of west and northwest; the new road would cut straight across the route of these “armies”.

The Serengeti population is the last and greatest of all wildebeest populations. The proposed road is a classic example of a development project that puts short-term human interests above the conservation of natural ecosystems, completely ignoring the 1979 UNEP Convention on Migratory Species, which Tanzania ratified in 1999.

Fencing the road through SNP could lead to a 90% reduction in the population, as occurred following fencing of Kruger and Etosha National Parks, not to mention the mortality that accompanied construction of veterinary cordon fences in Botswana.

Professor Norman Owen-Smith
University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

A truck highway will not be compatible with the seasonal movements of around a million wildebeest and numerous other ungulates back and forth across this route, and will ultimately lead to the blocking of this northward migration into the dry season range in northern Serengeti and Masai Mara. This will have substantial consequences for the numbers of wildebeest and other species that can be supported within Serengeti National Park, and reduce its supreme international status as a wildlife heritage.

Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland
Imperial College London, UK

Based on the many years of research that has been carried out into the dynamics of the ecosystem, it is very clear that the proposed road could do permanent and irreversible damage to this area, which is of critical global importance both for biodiversity and for humanity. I hope the Tanzanian government will reconsider this proposal.

Traci Birge, Researcher
ARONIA R & D, Finland

The government has an obligation to serve all citizens, and rural residents are a group in need of infrastructural improvements to help them improve their economies and opportunities and help move rural goods to urban centres. However, the proposed highway route would be devastating for the ecology of the Serengeti, and would have long-term negative effects on local residents, wildlife and ecology and would be a terrible blow for global biodiversity. The highway will both fragment habitats and lead to human encroachment into the Serengeti. Please find a more sustainable and less environmentally costly alternative to the proposed highway route.

Anna Estes
University of Virginia, USA

In Mikumi [National Park], ecological concerns lost out to economic ones. TANAPA was at first allowed to have checkpoints at either end of this road, but was made to remove them when the transportation industry complained about delays. Likewise, TANAPA initially had a higher frequency of speed bumps on the road, and was forced to remove some. There is no reason to suspect that the situation will differ at all in Serengeti, considering the potentially much higher volume of commercial traffic. A study that exists as a government document reported a frequency of one vehicle/minute on the Mikumi road.

Download the pdf to read all comments.

There are 20 comments for this article
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  3. Masegeri at 10:56 pm

    This is NOT fair!!All these people and scientists commenting here are not living in Loliondo,they live in their well developed countries with Tarmac roads ending at their house doors.Today poaching is alarming in Serengeti because of the poverty of the surrounding communities and already one of the introduced Rhino is killed!!Good road will make people to have more for their live and not think to undulge in risky poaching activities.Maasai commuinities of Loliondo also deserves good road like other human being worlwide.They need to develope like other people and dont deniy them their right from their government.As we speak now the ngorongoro Distict is the least developed place in the country although the district is amomg the oldest one esatblished in 1979.Lack of good road is the single major reason of underdevelopment of the ngorongoro (Loliondo) district.Conctruction of the Tunnel through the serenget could be a win-win solution

    • SunRise56 at 1:35 am

      Do you think a commercial highway will make it easier or more difficult for poachers to gain access to these animals? You live in one of the most underdeveloped areas in the world…. yet one of the most beautiful. A commercial highway would take away the specialness and make it just like everywhere else. One of the problems with building a commercial highway is commercial development… once a highway goes in, houses will go in, businesses will go in,because once a highway will go in, people will say, “oh, there is a commercial highway, now we should build houses there too” and when someone asks you where the wildebeests and zebras all went, you can all ask, “what wildebeests and zebras? They are no longer here….” I agree that ALL factors must be considered, but would it be easier if the government just helped you move to a more populated area rather than destroy the Serengeti? Once it’s gone – it’s gone forever. Many more animals will be struck by motor vehicles with a commercial highway than poachers could kill with the roads the way they are now… and the combination of both would prove fatal. I know it’s easy for me to spout all of this, but the people heeding the warnings are experts who have done a lot of research; they are not simply guessing or taking information from a few books. I’m not sure how you know some of them don’t live there… you are, I’m assuming, assuming that they don’t. Fact is, you don’t KNOW that – do you? I live on a dirt road, with a dirt driveway and I like it that way. My taxes would be higher if my road was paved… and people would drive so fast down it, I would be afraid to get on it because it is a long, straight road and people already drive too fast on it. Paving it would make it easier for them to speed down the road. I do not want MY road paved…More on your comment on the poachers, even if there was not poverty, poachers would still poach because they are greedy and they make a lot of money from certain animals parts. Even if your country was well-off, poachers would still poach. Development of the commercial highway will NOT stop poachers. Since you say you want your world to be more like ours, let me tell you something… there is pollution here everywhere. Highways are littered with trash and blown-out tires that are just left there, garbage thrown out of vehicles, auto accidents that kill a lot of people and animals, animal carcasses left on the highways and on the side of highways, fast-food bags, broken toys, oil, grime, vehicle parts, whatever people feel like throwing out of or losing off of their vehicles, and the smell of tires burning on the highway….the smell of the motor oil and gasoline… sound like a place you would want to live? There are also a lot of places in the United States and where ever else that have become over-populated with people, driving animals out.. and sometimes animal-person confrontations arise, which are often ugly and result in the death of the animal, and occasionally, the person. If the animals could speak… they cannot so we must speak for them, as THEY are the real victims here, they too would proclaim an unfairness as their home was being taken from them. Development of a commercial highway will DESTROY the Serengeti. And “develop” isn’t even a proper term, but it is, in reality, “destruction.” Once the Serengeti is gone – it is gone forever, and you will no longer be able to tell people you live in one of the most beautiful places on this entire earth… you can tell them “it’s just like everywhere else.”

    • Mel Heyworth at 9:14 pm

      I am not alone when I say that ‘development’ is not necessarily a good thing. We need to appreciate what it truly means to become driven by the idea of a bigger, better, greater economy. This does not bring happiness, nor allow us to realise our place in nature.

      We must learn as a species, to COMPROMISE, and the answer is staring us in the face. As I understand it, funding is offered to ease the burden of creating a longer southern route. Are the (seemingly worthwhile) drawbacks of this route great enough for it not to even be considered by the Tanzanian government?

      What is the point of fighting for the creation of a reserve if it cannot be preserved?

    • ngimi herbert at 1:15 am

      I agree with Mr Masegeri that road to cross loliondo is essential now and Government of Tanzania has the positive vision toward road construction.Those who dislike it,what are there comments toward people of Loliondo? .Loliondo people works day and night to make animals live and granted poverty.Why don’t you say how to connect Loliondo by the rest of the Tanzania and how to boost their income?

  4. Lee at 4:32 pm

    if you want the world to care what happens the the Serengeti and its inhabitants, you need to bypass the governments and the lobby groups and go to the stars! the movie stars, the movers and shakers, Gates, Branson and their ilk. Gates is fighting malaria in Africa and Branson has a personal stake in safari destinations. You need to lobby them!
    Masegeri, sorry but this road is not being built for you and your people, its being built for big business and on a promise of foreign aid by foreign workers, with foreign money and for foreign profit. They don’t care about the people, they are following the money. I would bet that, even if the highway was to be built against all advice, you and yours would still be the last to benefit and that is the sad truth.

    To the Tanzanian Government, I would plead with you to stop this venture. Your country and countries around you survive mainly on the tourist industry soaking up the safari culture. Your customers are conservationists and they dont like what is happening in other African countries to the animals whose populations are plummeting. They don’t want a highway cutting itself through a pristine area where old trucks with dangerous emissions pump their poisons into the air, killing the birds and the beasts. Whoever is telling you this is a good idea is wrong!!
    You build the highway, you lose the wild beasts, you lose the beasts, you lose the visitors and you lose the visitors and your country will not survive. Without the animals, visitors will not come to Tanzania. The coastline is not enough to save tourism, it’s just an add-on and your people will starve.
    I am not a university professor, or student. I don’t have a degree, All I have is a love of Africa and its people and its birds and beasts! Build the highway and I and many thousands, nay millions will not come again

    • ngimi herbert at 1:25 am

      Your comments have not being so straight,Loliiondo road is not the the first road to cross nation parks even now southern road is crossing Mikumi,and the road to Musoma is crossing serengeti.To be the last beneficial is the perception however Loliondo need to be connected by Tarmac road.

  5. google seo at 10:44 am

    Perez was among the activists behind a petition in 2000 to the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a panel created under the North …

  6. Anonymous at 12:31 am


  7. Valentin Ngorisa at 3:29 pm

    This is a petition by world scientists!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    STHS for whose benefit? it is very interesting and annoying reading comments from world scientists, they have argued according to what they have read in books or as one of them mentioned that he have been following the migration. All of them mentioned wildbeest but none of them mentioned local communities whom the presence of that debate was due to their love, this symbolise that what the Serengeti Watch call “world scientist” have even missing profession, they should have mentioned the benefit or loss by the local communities.

    It was so good for Serengeti Watch to strike a balance between what they call world scientist vs musoma – loliondo residents who could have explained the situation.
    The local communities have no access to internet, like you in developed world, i wish the musoma – loliondo residents have access to internet and the language you speak here, they would have responded precisely with their choices and for wildlife whom they have lived a symbiotic realtion with them.

    I advise the Serengeti Watch or Stop the Serengeti High Way to go and have comments from musoma – loliondo residents, this will help you to either continue with your campaign or stop it ever.

    Serengeti Watch and world scientist you much love serengeti but less to inhabitants around, the dictatorial kind of agreements sign by colonial gvt vs serengeti residents in 1959 have led them to be beggers in the streets and to you when you go to serengeti for researches which have enabled you to be named “world scientist”.

    Where are traditional views over the road?

    • Sunni79kf at 3:24 am

      Wasn’t the report created by a consulting from in… INDIA?

    • Bob House at 9:20 pm

      I agree. The local residents need to be heard. It’s their lives and livelihoods that will be affected just as it will have a great impact on the ecosystem and wildlife. Some type of balance needs to struck so as not to destroy all that the Serengeti offers while improving the lives of the people who surround it.

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  9. Julie van Niekerk at 1:32 am

    When there is a Chinese – there is destruction. Goodbye Serengeti!

    • ngimi herbert at 1:45 am

      Well done Ngorisa, Loliondo’s people have been backward due to lack of reliable infrastructure such as road.My view is that world scientists have to know Serengeti benefits much Europeans than Tanzanian and that is why they put much effort to weaken the government plan of connecting Loliondo with Tarmac road.People of Loliondo they never know the rest of the world,always what they see is tourists come to watch them like wild animals and live them suffering with poverty.SERENGETI IS THERE AND STILL WILL BE THERE,LET BUILD THE ROAD

  10. Bwana Author at 7:38 am

    Ngimi … No one is arguing against a Loliondo road or more development for communities around the Serengeti. Those communities need to benefit more from tourism and have access to markets and technology as they wish.

    In fact, you must not know that the German government has just announced $23 million euros for development of roads and other benefits for those communities around the park.

    This is a huge amount of funding. It was announced in the German press, but not in the Tanzanian press. This funding was made so that there would not be a paved road across the park itself, which would not benefit either the park or local communities.

    Don’t be fooled. A major highway that crosses the Serengeti with hundreds of lorries a day would benefit only a few big interests. Local communities would find that their land and way of life were not up for sale to outsiders. Look around, this is what always happens.

  11. Bob House at 9:08 pm

    It seems to me that the conflict of finding some sort of balance between human needs and preserving the ecosystem and biodiversity of the Serengeti is at the heart of the proposed highway. Does the government of Tanzania tell its people that their needs are less important than the sustainability of the Serengeti ecosystem as it is today or does the government look to improve the economic welfare of its people at the expense of the Serengeti wildlife and ecosystem? It is a difficult question.

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