(eTN) The slogan, Serengeti must not die, was coined by the late Prof. Dr. Grzimek and is today more relevant than ever before, as one of the world’s best known transboundary ecosystems is under renewed threat. In the past, poachers have decimated animal populations but no threat so serious has even been seen to the integrity of the park and the annual migration of the wildebeest, zebras, other game, and predators in their tow.
The million and a half of plains game MUST migrate to find food. Early every year they congregate in the low grass plains between the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where the calcium content in the grass is high, aiding the final development of their fetuses before they give mass birth. When the young ones have grown stronger, the entire population then begins to move north in search of fresh pasture and eventually, once a year, end up crossing the border with Kenya every year in June/July as they enter the Masai Mara Game Reserve. There, for weeks at end, they sweep across the reserve like a giant natural lawn mower, feeding on high grass and gaining strength to commence their return journey by September/October, leaving but a few thousand behind who have become “residents.”
The proposed route of the highway, which when ready is expected to see hundreds of trucks thunder across the plains, is running almost parallel to the border, and the impact of such a highway is thought to decimate the big herds to a few hundred thousand – some researchers claim as few as two hundred thousand – effectively killing off tourism and leading to the loss of predators, which depend on the great migration.
A government mouthpiece last week again tried to defend the undefendable, fending off questions about why the road should not lead around the southern edge of the Serengeti, where it is understood it would serve a very substantially larger population. Like a well-trained parrot, the spokesperson could only repeat what his masters had drilled into him.
Leading global conservation NGOs like AWF, WWF, the Frankfurt Zoo, zoos across the world, and multilateral organizations like the World Bank have already expressed their most serious concern over these plans but – this being a pre-election year – the government of Tanzania showed little concern so far to yield to the pressure and settle for the less controversial southern route. A full environmental impact assessment is expected to be carried out soon, but going by precedence, when a project of such magnitude beckons, the results often appear to have been predetermined to serve the ends rather than letting the facts speak.