Serengeti National Park was inscribed under natural criteria (vii) and (x). With its vast plains comprising 1.5 million ha of savannah, and the annual migration of large herds of herbivores (wildebeest, gazelles and zebras), followed by their predators, the property is one of the greatest natural wonders in the world.
The World Heritage Committee requested at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007) a state of conservation report to review progress in addressing concerns relating to threats affecting the property, in particular the proposed lodge development in Bilila and its associated environmental impact particularly on scarce water resources. The World Heritage Committee requested the State Party to provide information on progress in implementing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Lodge, copies of the hydrological studies recommended in the EIA, information on water mitigation measures and visitor management.
On 2 March 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property was submitted by the State Party. The report provides information on planned changes to the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone, a statement of integrity, protection, staffing and capacity needs, visitor information and factors affecting the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the efforts of the State Party to clarify and to enlarge the boundaries of the National Park. They recommend the State Party to evaluate, in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, and reflect these changes in the boundaries of the property by proposing an extension.
The State Party noted threats from poaching, a decline in the flow of the Mara River, and unregulated fires. In addition, IUCN has received reports of invasive species spreading in the property. The State Party also reported on some aspects of the work it has undertaken following the World Heritage Centre/IUCN/United Nations Foundation “Enhancing Our Heritage” (EoH)project. The Second Assessment for Serengeti via this project was produced in December 2007. Through this project, the State Party identified and has monitored several indicators: these included an assessment that improvements were noted for Acacia woodland and recovery of Black Rhino populations. The following indicators show deteriorating status: the flow and quality of the Mara River, riverine forests, conservation of Terminalia woodland and the health of wild dogs populations. The status of migratory routes for wildlife, another indicator, was considered to be unchanged and stable.
Information on progress made in implementing the decision of the World Heritage Committee is provided as follows:
a) Water Resource Management
The State Party reported that technical reports are complete and available for the Bilila Lodge visitor facilities and that construction of a well would only be permitted after assurance and certification of adequate water provision. The State Party did not report specifically on the Environmental Impact Assessment for the lodge nor provided any detailed technical reports requested by the World Heritage Committee.
The State Party has suspended the proposed expansion of water use at Bologonja springs until an Environmental Flows Assessment has been carried out. At this time there are insufficient funds for the assessment and to carry out the project.
The State Party is working with the State Party of Kenya and a variety of stakeholders on transboundary and joint initiatives on the sustainable use of water in the Mara River Basin. The reported factors affecting the Mara River include deforestation upstream in Kenya, high river sediment load from erosion, over-extraction of water, and pollution. The State Party reports that the community is supporting a transboundary Water User’s Forum. IUCN notes that there are a large number of stakeholders and initiatives in the region such as WWF’s Eastern Africa Regional Programme Office which are supporting efforts to reconcile the competition for Mara River’s water resources. Particular transboundary efforts are being encouraged to harmonize water demands in Tanzania and Kenya between the communities and ecosystems. In particular, improved approaches to managing water and water users are needed.
b) Visitor Management
The State Party report does not provide information on the carrying capacity of visitors in the property. The 2006-2016 management plan has divided the property into three zones: High Use, Low Use and Wilderness Zone. Under this zoning scheme, further visitor facilities development is permitted in the low use zones. The IUCN recall that plans for these developments should be shared with the World Heritage Centre prior to permission being granted for them. The management authority for the park has also designed alternative game viewing circuits to control congestion, developed a code of conduct, and increased patrols to reduce off-road driving. Visitation is also currently limited by the availability of accommodation.
The State Party reports that poaching continues to increase and its control requires additional rangers and more patrolling. The State Party is also trying to raise conservation awareness and education in adjacent local communities.
d) Invasive Species
IUCN received reports on invasive species, including Argemone mexicana and Datura stramonium being present in the property. Those reports indicate that the extent of these invasive species has not degraded the Outstanding Universal Value of the property at this time. However, it is recommended that action is taken to remove these invasive species to avoid the risk of further spread and increase in the cost for removal.
e) Fibre Optic Cable
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN received reports of a planned fibre-optic cable to be laid through the property. This was understood to involve the laying of approximately 759 km of cable, from Arusha to Musoma and Mwanza, via the Ngorongoro and Serengeti National Park World Heritage properties. Information received also stated that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) would be carried out as required under the new Environmental Management Act No. 20 of 2004. Though the consultation period for the EIA was to have ended on 31 August 2007, no further information on this project and the EIA have been received. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that planning for the project began in April 2006, and was not brought to the attention of the World Heritage Centre during the joint UNESCO/IUCN reactive monitoring mission in 2007 to Ngorongoro. The monitoring mission undertaken to Ngorongoro, in December 2008, investigated on a potential optical cable route in the property. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority confirmed the existence of the project but noted that the EIA had concluded that the proposed work on the laying of the cable was acceptable as it would follow the existing road, and after the works the environment would be restored to original condition. Once the cable is in place there should be a positive visual impact since there would no longer be a need for lines above ground.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN urge the State Party to provide additional information on the fibre-optic cable project, in particular the outcome of the EIA.
f) Bilila Lodge
The State Party has yet to submit to the World Heritage Centre the water resource studies, or progress on implementation of the recommendations of the EIA for the Bilila lodge development as requested previously by the World Heritage Committee in Decisions 30 COM 7B.7 and 31 COM 7B.10, respectively in 2006 and 2007. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate their recommendation that the State Party provide further information on the mitigation measures to be implemented and a timetable for their implementation, and how the park management is ensuring sustainable levels of visitors and preventing overcrowding, particularly in sensitive areas. The State Party is requested to provide copies of these studies to the World Heritage Centre and IUCN as soon as possible.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN encourage the State Party to ensure that all development and activities conform to the objectives of the General management plan of the property and are conducted or designed without adversely affecting the values for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List.