President Kikwete is planning to build a 32-mile (53-km) commercial highway that will split the Serengeti in half. This will disrupt the world's last great migration, an annual 500-kilometer (310-mile) migration of over 2.2 million herbivores (about 200,000 zebra, 500,000 Thompson's gazelle and 1.5 million wildebeest). To put this spectacular event in perspective, just imagine the population of Houston running to New Orleans -- with crocodiles snapping at their heels.
"Paving and fencing will inevitably follow, as will towns, bean and wheat fields, wildlife collisions, and increased poaching," says Serengeti Watch. "A section of the park will be excised, fragmenting the ecosystem into two parts. The impact is inevitable, and once gone, the Serengeti will be gone forever."
Considering Tanzania's impressive conservation record (with Kenya, the nation has protected more 80% of the Serengeti through the creation of parks and reserves), this ill-conceived plan is bewildering.
Last month, the World Bank offered to fund an alternative, southern route, which would avoid the Serengeti and the ancestral land of the remaining 400 Hadza, the continent's last true hunter gatherers.
"The regular pulse of the migration is the very heartbeat that keeps the Serengeti alive", said Dr. Barbara Maas, who heads International Species Conservation for NABU International. "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."
But President Kikwete told the World Bank thanks, but no thanks. The northern route will be going ahead as planned.
The Serengeti Migration, which takes place in October, is the Earth's longest and largest active overland migration and one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world.
Building President Kikwete's highway would be unconscionable act. And though one might say this kind of illogical and ultimately immoral behavior is all-too-common for humans, it is still incredible to think that it takes relatively few people to cause so much irreparable damage.
[This article is part of "Africa Month" on 13.7 Billion Years, a daily blog covering biodiversity, cosmology, conservation and ethical consumption.]