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Tanzania road may block migration by 2 million zebras, gnus

Road block for great park?

The annual migration of 2 million wildebeest and zebras in East Africa, described as one of the seven natural wonders of the world, may be disrupted by a proposed highway, conservationists said.

The construction of the road through the Serengeti National Park, linking the Tanzanian tourist hub of Arusha to Musoma town on Lake Victoria, is scheduled to begin in 2012, the Wildlife Conservation Society, based in New York, and the Zoological Society of London said Wednesday in an e-mail.

Vehicles traveling along the road may collide with the migrating mammals and the increased traffic may restrict their natural movement patterns, the societies said. That, in turn, may cut off the Masai Mara National Reserve in neighboring Kenya from the wild animal migration.

The Serengeti, in northwestern Tanzania, gets its name from the word Siringitu of the Masai tribe who are native to the area. The name means "the place where the land moves on forever." The area is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts as many as 90,000 tourists every year, the statement said.

Tanzania should find alternative routes, the groups said.

"To threaten this natural marvel with a road would be a tragedy," James Deutsch, executive director of the WCS's Africa Program, said in the statement. "We implore the Tanzanian government, known around the world for its commitment to conservation, to reconsider this proposal and explore other options."

The annual migration of the zebras and wildebeest, also known as gnus, starts in Tanzania as a seasonal dry spell begins and herds follow rainfall north in search of grazing. The phenomenon was chosen as one of the seven natural wonders of the world in a 2006 survey by USA Today and ABC News' Good Morning America.

Tanzania road may block migration by 2 million zebras, gnus 08/25/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 26, 2010 12:52am]

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