A team of well-respected scientists has released a joint concern addressing their hesitation to build a new road that would bisect the Serengeti National Park. With apprehension to the damage a road would inflict on the ecosystem, the group of scientists clearly warns the Tanzanian government about the ecological and economic consequences this road would have. The Opinion piece will appear in this week’s issue of Nature on 16 September.
Plans for building a two-lane commercial road through 50 kilometres of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania must be halted. In an Opinion piece in Nature this week, Andrew Dobson, a professor at Princeton University, and 26 scientist and conservation luminaries detail the damage such a road could wreak. The authors warn that the road will cause an environmental disaster, primarily by curtailing the migration of 1.3 million wildebeest. The resultant drop in herbivore numbers — from millions to hundreds of thousands, they estimate — could precipitate ecosystem collapse and wild fires, dent tourism income and perhaps even cause the system to “flip from being a carbon sink into a major source of atmospheric carbon dioxide”.
Furthermore the authors bring attention to the potential “economic disaster” that would also be caused by the building of the road. Tanzania and Kenya, both reliant on tourism from the Serengeti National Park and Masai Mara Reserve respectively, would lose visitors and dent global optimism raised for Africa’s future.
Citing modelling data and experiences in other disrupted ecosystems, the group says “there is an alternative to driving the road through the World Heritage Sites of the Serengeti National Park, where humans took their first recorded steps”. A road to the south of the park “would minimize environmental and economic damage and maximize benefits to human development and infrastructure”.
The authors support the alternative road proposal that goes around the south of the Serengeti without ever entering park boundaries. They observe that the alternative route is not without environmental consequences, but it is considerably more viable on a range of economic fronts. “It would provide valuable access to agricultural markets for around 2.3 million people as opposed to 431,000 on the northern route." Their concern not only gives light to the rural populations currently lacking critically needed infrastructure, but heeds note of Tanzania's economic dependency on the tourism sector accounting for 23% of the total foreign revenue.
The team of authors is led by Dr. Andrew P. Dobson, a professor at Princeton University in the United States. Dobson is a disease ecologist whose interest lies in tackling issues in conservation biology, land-use change and human development. He has worked extensively in the Serengeti for many years. Dobson was joined by several other leaders in conservation including Dr. Markus Borner, head of Frankfurt Zoological Society’s Africa Regional Office and Dr. Tony Sinclair, likely the most educated scientist in the world in regards to the Serengeti Ecosystem.
The entire team lives and breathes conservation throughout their daily lives and are harnessing their energy to help prevent one of the last pristine ecosystems from collapsing.
Fig 1: Map of north-eastern Tanzania illustrating proposed road across Serengeti and alternative southern routes: The southern route (blue) would serve nearly five times as many people, than the proposed Serengeti route (red). In essence, each kilometer of the northern route services 1024 people (mainly Maasai pastoralists whose livestock will be frequent victims of increased road traffic), while each kilometer of the southern route provides services for 5950 people many of whom are farming families that require access to the markets of central and coastal Tanzania. The path of the annual wildebeest migration is marked in green.
Frankfurt Zoological Society, Press Office
Mrs. Dagmar Andres-Brümmer, phone: ++49 (0)69- 9434 46 11, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Dobson (Princeton University, NJ, USA)
phone: +1 609 213 0341; E-mail: email@example.com
|FZS press release: 27 Renowned Scientists strongly oppose the plans to build a road through Serengeti in Nature|
|FZS Statement on Serengeti Road|