September 16, 2010

Serengeti Threatened By Proposed Highway

The Tanzanian government's plan to build a 31-mile highway into the Serengeti would devastate one of the planet's last great wildlife sanctuaries, biologists warned Wednesday.

27 experts on biodiversity in a commentary, published in the journal Nature, said: "the road will cause an environmental disaster."

The experts urged Tanzanian officials to use an alternate route that runs further south of the Serengeti. The alternate route would be around 155 miles farther south, below the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The planned road cuts right through the migratory route more than a million wildebeest use annually, which is part of the last great mass journeys of animals on Earth, they said.

Wildebeest play an important role in the fragile ecosystem, maintaining the vitality of the grasslands and sustaining threatened predators such as lions and cheetahs.

Simulations have been done that suggest that "if wildebeest access to the Mara river in Kenya is blocked, the population will fall to less than 300,000," said the experts.

"This would lead to more grass fires, which would further diminish the quality of grazing by volatizing minerals, and the ecosystem could flip into being a source of atmospheric CO2," they added.

Government officials have had the idea of linking coastal Tanzania to Lake Victoria and Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo for nearly twenty years.

In other parks around the world, fences and roads along migratory routes have caused a collapse in the ecosystem, scientists said.

Increasing foreign interest in exploring the natural wealth of central Africa has fueled the government's interest in prioritizing the highway.


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