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Monday, 21 March 2011

Serengeti Watch Legal Defense Fund

A court case against the Serengeti highway has been filed in the East African Court of Justice. This court is the instrument for settling disputes among members of the East African Community, which are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi.

You can donate specifically to the Serengeti Watch Legal Defense Fund fund here.

If you or your organization are able to support this effort in other ways, please let us know.

The case is significant because it seeks to permanently restrain the government of Tanzania from the following:

• "constructing, creating, commissioning or maintaining a trunk road or highway across any part of the Serengeti National Park."

• "degazetting (removing) any part of the Serengeti National Park for the purpose of upgrading, tarmacking, paving, realigning, constructing, creating or commissioning" the highway.

• removing itself from UNESCO obligations with respect to the Serengeti National Park.

It states that the highway is first and foremost an infringement of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. It would cause "irreparable and irreversible damage to the environment of the Serengeti National Park and the adjoining and inseparable Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya."

Under the terms of the EAC Treaty, partner states are required to cooperate in the management of shared natural resources, notify each other of activities that are likely to have significant transboundary environmental impacts, and to follow protocols for Environmental Impact Assessment.

Other obligations cited fall under: the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity, the United Nations Declaration on the Human Environment, the Stockholm Declaration, and the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The legal action was filed last December by the African Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW), located in Kenya. See the news article below.

Activists file suit against Serengeti Highway move

Serengeti Watch is supporting ANAW in their legal fight by providing funding and seeking help from other legal and environmental organizations.

This case is important. As in any court battle, there is no guarantee of immediate or even eventual success. But it is worth the fight - this has the potential of not only stopping the highway but of warding off future threats. The next time such a plan is brought forward, there will be an important decision on the books and and legal precedent to follow.

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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Lions in crisis: UK and US told they must act.

AT RISK: Lion numbers have nearly halved in the past 30 years.

The US and UK governments are being asked to take urgent action to help save the African lion, now seriously under threat.

The Foundation believes that unless current trends are reversed, it is possible that the continent's population of wild lions, already down to less than 40,000 animals from nearly 76,000 in 1980, will collapse. Ten years ago, lions inhabited 30 African countries. That number is now down to 27 and it is likely that they will disappear from more countries in the years ahead unless immediate action is taken.

The Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA, together with representatives of the International Fund for Animal Welfare(IFAW), The Humane Society of The United States/Humane Society International and Defenders of Wildlife, have submitted a petition to the US Secretary to the Interior calling on him to designate the African lion as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The US is the single biggest importer of wild lion body parts and trophies and may be responsible for more than half of the lions that are killed for trophies each year.

Listing under the ESA would prohibit the general import of lion trophies into the US unless it could be shown that the importation enhanced the species' survival or was for scientific purposes. This single measure could dramatically cut the number of lions shot for ‘sport' by US citizens.

Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundations explains: ‘The pressure on lions comes from all sides. Loss of habitat due to the impact of a sub-Saharan human population that is predicted to grow from 518 million in 1990 to 1.75 billion in 2050; loss of the wild animals that lions naturally prey on, due to the ravages of the commercial bushmeat trade; the impact of deadly diseases often transmitted from livestock or companion animals; retaliatory killings - the spearing or poisoning of lions after they have attacked livestock; and high levels of unsustainable trophy-hunting and body part trade.'

‘Trophy' lion parts also coming into Spain, France and Germany Although the US is the largest importer of trophies, Europe is not far behind. Between 1998 and 2008 lion trophies were imported into Spain (958), France (565) and Germany (525) amongst others. During the same period, the UK imported 87 lion trophies. The impact of an ESA listing and strong lion-protection measures in the USA could be undermined if trophies continue to be imported into the European Union.

Will Travers concluded: ‘Today, the Born Free Foundation has written to the UK Government's Minister for Biodiversity, Richard Benyon, asking him, on behalf of the British Government, to intercede with our European Community colleagues to take urgent action to end the import of lion trophies sourced from wild animals into Europe.'

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Monday, 7 March 2011

Serengeti Highway - Update.

German government offers a solution.

The African Regional Manager for the Frankfurt Zoological Society, Mr. Gelrald Bigurube, confirmed that the German government will finance construction of tarmac roads that will link dozens of rural villages adjacent to the Serengeti National Park.

He also said that the World Bank and the German government are also ready to finance southern route that will link the Arusha region with the Lake Victoria regions without crossing the Serengeti.

According to an interview with the Daily News, Mr. Bigurube said, "Linking rural villages in Serengeti and Loliondo districts with the their district headquarters is the best way of addressing economic needs of the communities living near the park."

The news article says Mr. Bigurube "disclosed that the German Federal Ministry for Development was ready to finance feasibility study of the rural roads in the districts if the idea will have blessings from the government of Tanzania."

He said the "international community is also concerned with the needs of the people in an environmental friendly way but the road should not be close to the park because it will have serious impact that cannot be mitigated."

The next step is up to President Kikwete who recently turned down an offer from the World Bank to fund the alternate route.

Find out more and join the campaign to save the Serengeti: http://www.savetheserengeti.org

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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Elephant Migration

Tanzania - Lake Manyara & Tarangire National Parks

Northern Tanzania presents a map of administratively independent National Parks that are actually interconnected and interdependent. Following the different seasons, rain patterns and other natural “rules”, different animal species move in the Parks as they have done for hundreds of years following their instincts to ensure their survival and the survival of their small ones.

The best known of these migrations is the one conducted every year by thousands of wildebeest and zebras in Serengeti and Masai Mara following the rains and searching for fresh grass. But it is not the only migration in Northern Tanzania, and wildebeest and zebras are not the only migrating animals.

We would like to report a less known migration, but equally fascinating, another survival lesson taught by nature, that will also help us being passionate about East Africa and professionals of the travel industry, to book our clients in the most convenient locations either in Tarangire or Lake Manyara National Parks depending on the season and clients´ requirements. With all the focus on the Serengeti migration, the enormous seasonal game movements which take place in the greater Tarangire area tend to be very much overlooked and little understood. The Serengeti migration is estimated at around 2.5 million animals, including 0,5 million zebra and 1,7 million wildebeest. The remainder is made up largely of lesser antelope species.

Running perhaps 250,000 large mammals in total, the Tarangire migration is around only a tenth of the size of the main Serengeti migration, especially in terms of zebra and wildebeest but it includes a much wider range of species, including giraffe, buffalo, oryx, ostrich and lion and, by far, the most significant component of this migration is the elephant population, which is thought to involve 5,000 to 10,000 animals. If one were to call it the Elephant Migration, it might achieve a much greater recognition.

As we start understanding this Elephant Migration, it should be noted that whilst the Serengeti migration tends to stick together for large parts of the year and is accessible as an entity in various locations, the Tarangire / Manyara migration is much more of an annual aggregation and dispersal pattern, therefore only being a visual phenomenon for the period during which it comes together. Tarangire National Park covers a very large area of 2,600 km2, but lies at the heart of an ecosystem which is around ten times that size.

The Tarangire National Park forms part of a bigger wildlife ecosystem covering over 20,000 sq km, which include the Lake Manyara National Park in the north, as well as five other surrounding wildlife controlled areas. The key to this wildlife ecosystem is the Tarangire River, and the local animal migration in the area begins from this river, at the start of the short rainy season around October every year. At the height of the long rainy season, the animals, which include wildebeest, Thompson gazelles, zebra and even African elephants, will be widely spread out over this 20,000 sq km area. When the wet season ends, the animals begin their migration back towards the river and spend the dry season July to October, concentrated in large numbers around the river.

The animals mostly disperse during April and May, when there is widespread greenery, vegetation and standing water to encourage all the grazers further afield. In June, the eland and oryxes begin to return, followed by elephant towards the end of the month. Tarangire is a great spot for elephant gatherings at the end of the rainy season in June, and zebra and wildebeest return together through July.

By mid-August all the animals are congregating around their last reliable water source, the Tarangire River. The calving season falls in the early months of the year, through January, February and March, and so makes the most of the fresh grass during the rainy season. There are a number of permanent year-round water sources in the area, which is crucial for the survival of animals.

The most significant of these water sources is the Tarangire River, which arises at the foot of the nearby Rift escarpment, flows into the park and then evaporates from its terminus at Lake Burunge on the western border of Tarangire NP.

During the dry season, July to October, game migrates to Tarangire National Park from the enormous hinterland and gathers in very high concentrations within the Park, and particularly along the central river valley. During the converse season, November to June, the presence of seasonal waterholes enables the game to migrate outwards, spreading across the surrounding game control areas.

Although the in and out movement is common, different species tend to move on different routes at different times. Wildebeest and zebra mainly move northwards towards Lake Manyara and beyond in the direction of Lake Natron, crossing the main Arusha to Serengeti highway along the way.

The main bulk of the wildlife, including buffalo, gazelle, elephant, kongini, eland and oryx move out onto the plains to the east and southwest. Other herds of wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and eland also move in a more southerly direction. Resident species which remain within the park include waterbuck, impala, warthog, duikers, giraffe and lesser kudu.

With regards to elephants, as migratory animals, sustainable management of African elephant populations, both within and around protected areas, is a major challenge in the conservation policy of many African countries. Migration routes in the zone are characterized by higher cover (open and closed forest) than core areas.

Outside the park poaching occurs at times, and hence it looks like elephant management must be considered across park boundaries and migration corridors must be protected against human disturbance and land cultivation. Society problems linked to elephant conservation can be solved by creating alternative, sustainable, use of natural resources that enhance the livelihood of local communities.


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Migration Update

The wildebeest and herds of zebra are concentrated around the Hidden Valley and Miti Mitatu Areas. Some are even headed towards Kusini due to the lack of rain around the Ndutu area for the past week. During this last month a lot of our clients have witness the calving and then also sadly the circle of life taking place with a lioness hunting a newly born calf. The cats are still numerous and families up to 22 members have been seen.

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