Posts Tagged With: ecosystem

If Rhinos Go Extinct

To every thing there is a yin and yang, a balance. The web of all species is intricately connected, each relies on the others.

When we let a species go extinct, we upset the balance. So if we fail the rhino, what will happen to the rest of the savanna?

Rhinos are mega-herbivores, the lawn maintenance crew of the savanna. Their job to the ecosystem is to carve out paths for other creatures (eating), make water holes (digging), and to help germinate plants (defecating).

rhinos eating grass

It may seem simplistic, but they are the only sizable creatures in this habitat to do it. The other mega-herbivores, elephants affect different parts of the savanna, as they eat from a different menu, browsing on taller bushes and trees.

Rhinos eat an average of 23.6 kg during the course of each day. The dung piles they share can be 5 metres wide and 1 metre deep. That’s a sizable amount of trimming and fertilizing!

Research (by Scandinavian and South African researchers in the Journal of Ecology) indicates areas with higher rhino population had 20 times more grazing areas. These areas supply food not just for rhinos, but for zebra, gazelle and antelope.

No rhinos = less grazable area = less herbivores (i.e. antelope) = less predators (i.e. lions)

If we fail the rhino, what will happen to the people?

Eco-tourism relies heavily on tourists wanting to see the Big 5: the lion, elephant, rhino, cape buffalo, and leopard.

kenya tourism

 

Obviously without the rhino, it’s down to 4. But if the savanna suffers without grazable area, ultimately so do the lion and leopard, since their lunch will be terribly diminished by the lack of herbivores.

So will people pay to come see a barren landscape with a few scattered elephant and buffalo?

The World Travel and Tourism Council estimates 3.8 million jobs could be created by the tourism industry in Sub-Saharan Africa over the next 10 years. They go on to say that eco-tourism can only be sustainable IF the natural assets are protected from degradation.

Tour operators, tour drivers, cooks, housekeepers, souvenir vendors, wait staff, hotel staff, taxi drivers, restaurants, store employees…they could all be out of a job without tourism.

No rhino = no big five = no tourists = no tourism jobs = poorer economy

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If we fail the rhino, we let terrorists, politicians, poachers, trophy-hunters, and most of all apathy win;  making it that much harder for the next endangered species. If we fail the rhino, we ultimately fail ourselves.

rhino reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Paving Paradise: the Road to Disaster

The Serengeti is a National Heritage Site, home to one of the most highly diverse groups of animals and habitats on the planet. The majestic serengeti mapecosystem stretches from Tanzania to Kenya, and 80% of it is currently protected by both governments.

The Serengeti is an infamous tourist destination, giving ample opportunities to view the Big Five, and of course the Great Migration. The Migration is an annual phenomenon, during which time hundreds of thousands of wildebeests, zebra and antelope move in herds from one grazing area to the next, spanning approximately 1800 miles.

Tourism is a significant part of Kenya’s economy, and it has emerged as the top foreign exchange earner in Tanzania last year as well.  According to Africa Travel and Tourism, basing on its great potential, the sector has much to be confident about in 2014.

Paving Paradise

construction in serengetiIn 2010, the Tanzania government announced a plan to construct a paved commercial highway across the Serengeti.  They believe this will more easily facilitate trade and travel, linking the country’s coast to Lake Victoria and countries to the west, including Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The group Serengeti Watch conducted a survey of over 300 scientists from varying countries who all concluded this would have adverse effects on the Migration. The annual routes of millions of animals would be disrupted, the area would become fragmented, and obviously the human-wildlife conflict would become an urgent concern. (Not to mention, making life “easier” for the poachers and game hunters.)

wildebeests migration

This photo taken during the Migration, in nearly the exact place where the proposed Serengeti highway would bisect this part of Serengeti and Loliondo. Not far from this spot there are survey ribbons hanging on trees.

Since then, there has been international public outcry, as obviously this disturbs one of the most precious ecosystems in the world. Serengeti Watch has brought attention to this devastating  proposal and last year a legal case was filed by Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW). In addition, on Tanzania’s behalf, Serengeti Watch contacted dozens of organizations and more than three hundred experts in an attempt to find expert witnesses. Sadly, no one came forward, out of fear of serious repercussions in their ability to enter, work or remain in Tanzania in the future.

yes to the southern routeAlternative Plan: the Southern Route

In addition to the Serengeti Watch, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, African Wildlife Foundation and many other conservation groups and NGO’s are pushing for a route AROUND the Southern end of the park. This will accomplish the goal of connecting Arusha with the Lake Victoria region which is one of the “purposes” of the highway.

It would help five times as many people and would cost less. The Frankfurt Zoological Society estimates that it would only take 1 HOUR longer to drive!

Although this seems a feasible compromise, protecting both the wildlife and the opportunity for further development, it is still not decided.

The Way It Stands

Currently there will be paved roads on both sides of the Serengeti, connecting Arusha with the Lake Victoria region, things are in the final stages of planning. Contractors have been selected and the government of Tanzania has funds in its  2013-2014 Budget.

The roads will not be built within the Serengeti National Park itself, but they will border it and cross areas where large numbers of wildebeest and zebras migrate. Wildlife will be forced to cross tarmac roads with commercial traffic, including the Wildlife Management Area in Loliondo.

For updates,  join Serengeti Watch on facebook: STOP THE SERENGETI HIGHWAY

Please sign and share the petition to:  Protect Tanzania’s wildlife.

mandela save environment

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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