The rising human population in western Serengeti National Park is putting the world’s greatest annual wildlife migration, across East Africa’s plains, under threat.
The annual migration of two million wildebeest across the Serengeti and Maasai Mara reserve is a key tourist attraction that generates millions of dollars annually.
But now both local and international scientists say the migration is under threat due to the current growth rate of the human population, coupled with excessive exploitation of natural resources within the key areas of the park.
The land to the west of Serengeti Park is densely populated by farmers and herders with their number being estimated at about three million in 2011.
As a result, agricultural activities have encroached on the park’s boundaries and former subsistence poaching has now become large-scale and commercial.
Allan Kijazi, director general of Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa), says between 200 and 300 animals are killed annually in western Serengeti, which is becoming a major challenge.
“We are worried that if this trend continues, wildlife survival will be at great risk,” said Mr Kijazi.
The rise in demand for meat has also partly been driven by the growing population. This has seen the number of rhinoceros, warthogs, giraffes, elands, impalas, buffalo, elephants and wildebeest decrease.
Prof Craig Packer, a lecturer at the University of Minnesota, who has been in Serengeti since 1978 researching on lions, says that Tanapa should think about fencing western Serengeti to protect the entire wildlife population.
Serengeti National Park lies in northern Tanzania between Lake Victoria and the Great Rift Valley. It was established in 1929 and expanded in 1940 to protect 14,500 square kilometres of the Serengeti plains ecosystem.