Apr 8

It seems the Tanzanian government are pressing ahead with the controversial Serengeti Highway, despite fierce opposition from the international community and conservation organisations. 

The German government recently offered to fund a study to find an alternative route for the Serengeti Highway, so that it does not split Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park in half. However, the Tanzanian Government appear undeterred, and claim that the road will have no negative impact on the national park and its wildlife.

Photo of blue wildebeest herd on savannah

The wildebeest migration is a true wildlife spectacle and occurs no where else on the planet.

Route condemned 

In May 2010, the Tanzanian government announced that it wanted to build a road through the Serengeti National Park, to connect remote rural populations to the main trading centres. By 2015, the road is expected to carry 800 vehicles a day, mostly trucks, and by 2035, 3,000 vehicles a day are expected to use the route – an average of one vehicle every 30 seconds. 

Conservationists have condemned the planned route as it cuts through a swathe of the Serengeti National Park, through which giant herds of wildebeest migrate every summer, en route to Kenya’s pastures. This event is one of nature’s true wildlife spectacles, occurring no where else on the planet, and also brings in important tourism revenue to a relatively impoverished region. Conservationists have warned that the road could effectively destroy the wildebeests’ life cycle and bring the ecosystem of the national park crashing down.

Photo of eastern white-bearded wildebeest herd with plains zebra

The giant herds of wildbeest are joined by many other animals, including zebras.

Government contradictions 

The Tanzanian government’s environmental impact assessment of the road has also drawn criticism. 

The draft of the environmental impact assessment, which is now available, is completely inadequate,” said Christof Schenck, Frankfurt Zoological Society Executive Director. “The study also contradicts itself. One comes to the conclusion that the road would boost tourism and at the same time, that [sic] tourism would be the road’s big loser.” 

UNESCO, which lists the Serengeti as a World Heritage Site, has also warned against the road. “In terms of potential environmental deterioration, the damage to the park by the north road could be severe enough as to prompt inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger,” it stated.

Photo of greater and lesser flamingo nesting colony

Lake Natron is a globally important breeding site for the greater flamingo.

Lake Natron

The Tanzanian government has also announced that it is to fast track the development of a soda ash plant at Lake Natron, the only breeding site for greater flamingo in East Africa. The plant will extract 500,000 tonnes of soda ash every year, and will include a series of pipes across the lake and considerable infrastructure on the shoreline. However, the Tanzanian Government does not believe this will impact on flamingo breeding. 

View more species from Tanzania on ARKive

Alex Royan, ARKive Species Text Author