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great migration serengeti tanzania africa safari wildlife wildebeestEvery year, nearly two million wildebeest, zebras and other mammals migrate across the Serengeti plains in Tanzania, drawing thousands of visitors to watch one of the world’s most unique and impressive wildlife displays. But next year, construction is set to begin on a road that will cut through the park — and could irrevocably disrupt the famous Great Migration.

The Tanzanian government is seeking to build the road for economic reasons, NBC’s “Today Show” reports (see below to watch the full video). The proposed 33-mile gravel road would grant easier access to the Lake Victoria region, which is a key source of high-demand earth metals used to make cell phones and hybrid car batteries.

But environmentalists warn that the effects on the park’s wildlife could be disastrous. An increased volume of trucks driving through the park could make poaching easier, cause a spike in animal collisions and introduce invasive substances, such as seeds, that would disturb the existing ecosystem. In addition to ecological concerns, the disruption of the Great Migration could affect tourism — not only in Tanzania but also in neighboring Kenya (the animals migrate to the edge of that country’s Masai Mara reserve).

Opponents have proposed a longer alternate route for the road that would run south of the Serengeti.

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Want to speak out against the road? There’s a Facebook page and a petition. And don’t miss our tips for planning an African safari.

–written by Sarah Schlichter