For Africa to catch up with the modern world in terms of development and infrastructure, it's going to mean increased encroachment into the continent's cherished wilderness. Among other things, that means more roads. And where there are roads, there is--tragically-- roadkill.
Given that Africa is a continent with so many iconic endangered species, this poses a significant problem where roads cross into wilderness areas. For instance, take Kenya's newly paved A-2 highway. Over the last year alone, animals killed by speeding cars include a lion cub, a cheetah, two Grevy’s zebra (a mother and her foal), several spotted hyenas, and even an elephant, according to a local conservation group called Ewaso Lions.
A drive down this road is probably not what you had in mind for an African safari.
The doleful report by Ewaso Lions raises serious questions about how to manage Kenya's development in terms of its threat to wildlife. There are only about 2,000 lions remaining in all of the country, and only about 2,500 Grevy's zebras on the entire planet, so losing these animals to careless drivers is particularly tragic.
The A-2 highway, which runs north from Isiolo town, is not a new road, but it was only recently paved. This has not only increased traffic, but it has increased traffic speeds. Motorists have taken the smooth road as a license to take joy rides and accelerate at dangerous levels, which puts them on a collision course with wildlife. The highway cuts right through major wilderness areas, including Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Shaba National Reserve, Kalama Conservancy and Samburu National Reserve. Animals cross the highway frequently, as it bisects several major migration corridors.
This isn't the first time that roads have stirred controversy between developers and conservationists in Africa. A plan to build a highway right through the heart of Tanzania's Serengeti has been proposed, which would significantly disrupt the national park's epic and oft-documented wildebeest migration. Though the plan has been temporarily halted, government officials are still looking for an alternate route.
Ewaso Lions, in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service, is currently in talks to advocate for new measures to reduce the loss of life along the road. They have pinpointed key areas that would benefit from the installation of speed bumps and signs warning drivers of potential collisions with wildlife.