The World Bank has offered to help fund an alternative route for a planned road project that would otherwise cut through Tanzania’s world famous Serengeti National Park, according to the German-based NGO Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU). When announced last year, the road project raised protests from environmentalists, scientists, and Tanzanian tour companies, but the Tanzanian government refused to shift plans to an alternative southern route for the road, thereby bypassing the park.
According to NABU, however, the World Bank may be preparing to settle the dispute. Reportedly the bank is opposed to the route that would cut through the Serengeti, and provide funding for the alternative plan.
“The regular pulse of the migration is the very heartbeat that keeps the Serengeti alive,” says Dr Barbara Maas, NABU International’s Head of International Species Conservation. “Without it, it will die. The World Bank’s initiative throws a lifeline to this unique wilderness and the animals and people that depend on it.”
The Serengeti is home to one of the world’s last intact migrations of large terrestrial mammals, as every year one and a half million wildebeest along with hundreds of thousands of zebras and Thomson’s gazelles brave lions, crocodile-infested rivers, and humans to migrate to seasonal grazing.
Renowned East African conservationist, Richard Leakey, stated that while road may start out as a dirt track rising human populations would eventually force its expansion, which would “kill the migration”.
Even without new roads, mammal populations in Africa are declining. A study last year found that large mammals in protected areas saw an overall decline in their populations of 59% in the past 40 years.
Wildebeest herd in Tanzania. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.