From The NYT, Opinionator
Every year, more than a million wildebeest, along with hundreds of thousands of zebras and gazelles, move through the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem of Tanzania and Kenya, following the rains. In the course of a year, an individual wildebeest may cover as much as 2,100 kilometers. (That’s more than 1,300 miles — which is further than the distance between New York and New Orleans.) It is the last great migration on Earth.
But for how much longer? A large part of the migration takes place within the vast Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and there are reports that the Tanzanian government is preparing to build a major road through the northern part of the park: through a designated wilderness area, through the migration route.
Roads are catastrophic for wildlife. The experiment has been done again and again all over the world: we know. Among the problems: roads allow the easy spread of invasive plant species, as car tires often carry their seeds. Roads also allow the rapid spread of animal diseases, and lead to an increase in poaching, building and other human activities.
But by far the biggest problem is that roads fragment habitats and disrupt animal movements. Many animals are reluctant to cross roads, even those with little traffic. And when there is a lot of traffic, the lives of people and animals are both at risk.