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article imageSerengeti road would mean disaster for wildlife say scientists

By Lynn Curwin     Sep 18, 2010 in Environment
A proposed road through Serengeti National Park would result in the collapse of an ecosystem which includes huge herds of wildebeest and zebra, warn scientists.
"The road will cause an environmental disaster by curtailing the migration of wildebeest," CBC News reported that an opinion piece in the journal Nature, which was signed by 27 researchers, said.
"Migratory species are likely to decline precipitously, causing the Serengeti ecosystem to collapse, and even flip from being a carbon sink into a major source of atmospheric carbon dioxide."
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2012 on a two-lane road through 53 kilometres on the northern area of the park in Tanzania, which is a United Nations World Heritage Site.
It would cut through the path used by wildebeests and zebras as they travel in search of food and water in the dry season.
The scientists said there will collisions between animals and vehicles, and that will probably result in a fence being constructed.
University of British Columbia zoologist Anthony Sinclair said wildebeests will run into fences, piling up against one another until many are crushed.
Wildlife overpasses would be extremely expensive and could not accommodate the number of animals in the migrating herds.
"We can travel for as much as 60 kilometres through those herds, non-stop, seeing wildebeest from horizon to horizon," CBC News quoted Sinclair as saying. “It's truly one of the great natural wonders of the world."
If the wildebeest can't get to their dry-season food and water sources, at least half can be expected to disappear, causing large changes to the ecosystem.”
He said the wildebeest is a keystone species, and if their numbers drop too much the entire Serengeti as it is now known would disappear.
Researchers have proposed the road be built south of the park; minimizing damage and serving more people but the government said the existing plan, a campaign promise made by President Jakaya Kikwete, will go ahead. Kikwete is running for re-election in October.
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