Jaspa – Every year a miraculous drama unfolds on the plains of my homeland, in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Upwards of 1.5 million wildebeest, together with another half million or so zebra and antelope, embark upon the largest migration of animals (in terms of biomass) anywhere on land.
In this part of Africa, unlike most other parts of the world, there’s no winter, spring, summer and autumn (or fall, if you prefer). Instead, there are wet seasons and dry seasons, driven by the monsoon. During the wet season, the Serengeti – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is a place of plenty. Abundant rain means lots to drink and endless oceans of lush, nutritious grass. During this time, the immense herds gather on the Short Grass Plains of the south-eastern Serengeti to enjoy the bumper harvest and have their young.
However, as is often the case in nature, there’s a price to be paid for the good times, and that price is the dry season. Within a few short weeks of the rains failing – as they do every year – the fertile grasslands become virtual deserts. The animals of the massive herds are faced with a choice that is no choice: stay put and die, or move on in search of food and water. So begins the Great Migration – a desperate, life-or-death struggle to simply find enough food and water to survive, a circuit that stretches hundreds of kilometres, up into Kenya’s Maasai Mara and back.
This incredible natural event is the backdrop for my first adventure – Jaspa’s Journey: The Great Migration. At the beginning of the book is a note from Rich, which reads:
“Something to bear in mind as you’re reading this book: with only one or two small exceptions, everywhere that Jaspa goes and everything he sees is real. Really real. If you’re lucky enough you could go there too, and follow in Jaspa’s footsteps.”
Sadly, there could come a day, very soon, when this statement is no longer true. Within the next year or so, the Tanzanian government plans to begin construction of a major highway through the heart of the Serengeti, which scientists believe would mean the end of the Great Migration. In a handful of years, this amazing annual event, which has been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, and which draws tourists and scientists from all over the planet, could be lost forever.
Everyone agrees that a road linking the areas to the east and west of the Serengeti is needed. But the planned route of the highway has countries, environmental groups and scientific organisations from around the World extremely worried. They support an alternative route, around the south of the National Park, which won’t interfere with the migration. Unfortunately, even though the World Bank and the German government have offered to help pay for the southern road, the Tanzanian government has so far refused to abandon the planned northern route.
The clock is ticking, and time is running out for the wildebeest herds, but it’s still not too late. Hopefully, the Tanzanian government will alter their plans and choose the southern route, and Rich’s invitation for you to follow in my footsteps and see the Great Migration for yourself, will remain possible for countless generations to come.
To learn more about the Great Migration and the Serengeti Highway visit my website: www.jaspasjourney.com