Serengeti Watch 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.
302 Scientists from 32 countries responded.
• 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.
SURVEY ON IMPACTS
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 Showing Likely Impacts
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.
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