Why the Serengeti is so important

The Serengeti is the best known, most treasured ecosystem in the world. Its great migration must be forever protected for the benefit of future generations of Tanzanians and visitors from around the world.  Yet there are even more reasons why saving the Serengeti is vital.

Damaging or losing the Serengeti will cause a downward spiral –

  • It will call into question, perhaps be the deciding factor, on whether we can protect any of our great natural treasures into the 21st Century.
  • It will be a serious precedent on how to balance human needs with the natural treasures we have left – it will be a serious defeat for those who believe we can create solutions that balance both sides of the equation.
  • Downgrading the Serengeti to a World Heritage in Danger, or having it removed from the list completely, will be a significant blow to the entire World Heritage concept.
  • The international treaty that Tanzania signed to protect the Serengeti for all world citizens would be rendered meaningless. It will also be the end of Tanzania’s own heritage of conservation, held since its independence.
  • It will be a serious blow to the UN World Heritage Centre itself, representing a defeat in the ability to pursue its own mission.
  • The loss of the Serengeti as a World Heritage Site will produce a cascading effect on other natural areas in Africa and around the world. There will be no great example to point to, no great bulwark of conservation to emulate.
  • It will raise the specter of politicians and governments using protected areas and World Heritage Sites as pawns, seeing if they can hold them hostage for political and economic gain.

Pressures on the Serengeti Ecosystem

From its very birth, Tanzania has a remarkable record of conservation. It has set aside more than 540 terrestrial protected areas, about 38% of its territory, more than any other nation on earth. Learn more here.

But the habitat wisely set aside for protection at independence was done when the population of Tanzania was only about 10 million people. Now the population is pushing 43 million!

Tanzanian Population Growth (Click to Enlarge)

By definition, protected areas restrict access by people, while protecting wildlife. It is easy to see why these areas are now under threat – human population increasingly restricts wildlife habitat, and human needs put pressure on the government to justify the existence of protected areas.

If the world wants to protect areas like the Serengeti, it must be willing to help host governments maintain them and make sure that benefits flow to the people.

Protecting The Serengeti Forever

This highway is not the first lethal threat against the Serengeti, and it won’t be the last. In fact, a highway has been proposed twice before, and it may rise again.

There are plans in the works to completely dismember the northern area of Tanzania to make room for some development schemes that clearly are not economically sound. These would trade the natural treasures of the country for mining and transport, in the process losing the income and job potential provided by tourism. Learn more here.

It’s vital that we watch closely and head off threats.

Population Density around the Serengeti (Click to enlarge)

Population Density around the Serengeti (Click to enlarge)

• The 2010 UNESCO report warned of alarming levels of poaching.
• New tourism development does not have proper planning or limits, especially for water supplies.
• Human pressure continues – the Serengeti is surrounded by a growing population with legitimate needs of their own. They need support. Read more.

Only with constant vigilance and support can we ensure that the Serengeti will survive as a source of inspiration and wonder for future generations.

Serengeti Watch fills an important niche –  it’s not just another NGO, it’s an international community that can play a vital role – it’s you.

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