Friday, January 28, 2011

Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park is famous for its annual migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra. I'm not sure I can find the words to describe what it was like to be there and see such a vast expanse of land--but it was an amazing experience. The word Serengeti, originally a Maasai word, has been changed in English and Swahili; "Serengit" in Maasai means "endless plains" while "Siringitu" in Swahili means “the place where the land moves on forever.”

Africa is believed to be the birthplace of humanity--which brings up the debate about evolution. Although many people like myself believe there should be no still exisits. But I like how this quote brings the most important lesson to the forefront:

"I do not want to discuss evolution in such depth, however, only touch on it from my own perspective: from the moment when I stood on the Serengeti plains holding the fossilized bones of ancient creatures in my hands to the moment when, staring into the eyes of a chimpanzee, I saw a thinking, reasoning personality looking back. You may not believe in evolution, and that is all right. How we humans came to be the way we are is far less important than how we should act now to get out of the mess we have made for ourselves."

Jane Goodall is best known for her 45-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues. The mess she speaks of is the state of the world we currently live in--overpopulation, habitat destruction, human consumption, deforestation, rapid extinction of species, loss of biodiversity, pollution, water availabilty/quality, climate change, etc. Depressing? Yes. But sadly its a very real concern that every human should be aware of.

Tanzania as a country has been a world leader in wildlife conservation--they have found ways to protect wildlife and allow for human use while creating jobs for the local people. The charismatic wildlife and amazing scenery attract more than 90,000 tourists to the Serengeti each year. However, not long ago in September there was a push to build a major highway through the middle of the park--something that would obviously disrupt the Great Migration that occurs here. I'm not sure where that issue stands today but I certainly hope it doesn't happen and that they are able to come up with an alternative.

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