US warns Tanzania over impact of Serengeti road

Continuing the conversation on the proposed road through the Serengeti, the US has cautioned Tanzania over its plan:

The Obama administration said Wednesday it has raised concerns with Tanzania’s government about the impact of its plan to build a road through the Serengeti wildlife reserve, which environmentalists say could affect the famed wildebeest migration and threaten endangered species.

The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson, said he brought the matter up in meetings with top Tanzanian officials in late April and that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton could revisit the topic when she visits the country this month. Clinton is expected in Tanzania next week as part of a three-nation African tour focused on trade and development that will also include Zambia and Ethiopia.

“We are fully aware of the concerns that have been raised in this country and in other countries about the environmental impact that the trans-Serengeti road will have on the very large, spectacular and almost unique migration of animals from the Serengeti up to the game parks in Kenya,” said Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs.

I’ve never been one to disagree with Johnnie Carson.

When I first heard about this highway, I was under the impression that it would be a paved road through the Serengeti. It turns out it will be dirt, but that is only a small relief. The road still appears unnecessary. For instance, they say it it to connect the west of the country with the economic activity of the Kilimanjaro region, but take a look at this map. It’s actually a relatively small area that will be connected – an area that largely depends upon the fishing on Lake Victoria anyway.

Of course, I’m not expert in the economic layout of Tanzania. But I do know that nothing is worth losing the Serengeti.

Update: A study published in February shows the huge impact this road can have.

The danger of false beliefs

A few months ago Wendy Pollack went to cause harm to people in Tanzania by providing them with false hope. She led sick people – specifically those with HIV – to believe that unproven and even blatantly discredited ‘medicine’ could help them become healthier. It was an awful tragedy and we can all be thankful that she has finally left Africa all together. She still practices her form of harm in America, but she at least faces some regulations here. (A complete outlawing of her shenanigans would be preferable.) It is easier to combat the misinformation of chiropractors and other sham-practitioners in a developed nation, even if they still manage to cause damage. Unfortunately, places like Tanzania do not have the institutions or medical infrastructure to implement procedures to protect its people, so even with people like Pollack safely thousands of miles away, alternative medicine practices still run rampant:

Hundreds of albinos are thought to have been killed for black magic purposes in Tanzania and albino girls are being raped because of a belief they offer a cure for AIDS, a Canadian rights group said on Thursday.

At least 63 albinos, including children, are known to have been killed, mostly in the remote northwest of the country.

“We believe there are hundreds and hundreds of killings in Tanzania, but only a small number are being reported to the police,” Peter Ash, founder and director of Under The Same Sun (UTSS), told Reuters.

This is a tragedy exactly along the same lines as what the entire alt-med crowd does. These random and inane – and often dangerous – faith-based ideas take off within a certain population and real human lives are put at risk. There is no evidence to back up any of these stupid and harmful beliefs, but evidence matters less and less as people get sicker and sicker. That’s one reason homeopaths are so successful in ripping people off.

What is happening in Tanzania right now rises to a level slightly above what most alt-med people do, but it really isn’t that far and away different. Remember Lawrence Stowe? He bankrupted sick people, drawing them away from real treatment. Many of those people died as a result of his actions – and he knew they would. Even where the people were terminal and could not be cured, he hastened death and increased pain. It’s standard practice for the alt-med crowd and I see no difference between that and what’s going on in Tanzania right now.

Wendy Pollack the liar

I wrote about a quack by the name of Wendy Pollack almost two weeks ago. She has gone over to Tanzania in order to tell people with serious illnesses lies about the efficacy of homeopathic ‘medicine’. She is going to do no good.

But I wasn’t the only one who mentioned this quack. PZ made a post about her first. This resulted in a number of people going to her website and leaving comments. To my surprise, at least on one of her posts, many of the Pharyngulites were generally, dare I say…respectful. (Or at least as respectful as those of us on the side of science can be when faced with blatant anti-science nonsense.) Most granted that Pollack had good intentions – and I’m positive she does – but they all lamented the fact that she wasn’t going to help anyone. If anything, her presence will cause harm because people will believe they’ve actually been helped; good feelings are nice, but they’ve never cured HIV. One person even offered directions on how to contribute to people using real medicine. (Go here for a version of that post.)

But Pollack is a quack. And as any regular FTSOS reader knows all too well, alt-med quacks aren’t especially interested in open discussion. Take a look at the comment section of one of Pollack’s posts. Currently there are 4 comments. There used to be at least 20. The quack went through and deleted every bit of criticism (including the directions on how to make worthwhile contributions). Anything pro-malarkey, however, was left. Take a look at this post:

Gail said…
The human body and spirit has a remarkable ability to heal itself.Homeopathic meds facilitate this. I have first hand experience of being cured twice from conditions that conventional meds could not cure. In one I suffered for over 20 years & it was cured in days.As for the naysayers on this blog,don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

February 8, 2011 6:59 AM

Strange how someone would mention “naysayers” on a blog that doesn’t feature an ounce of criticism, no?

But maybe that isn’t good enough. After all, this is just based upon what I’m claiming to remember combined with some circumstantial evidence from a random person on the Internet. I could just be making it up, really. And I would agree with you. I need better evidence than just my word and plausibility. I need something like Google cache.

Gabe Ortiz said…
If you would research homeopathy with a truly open mind, you would understand that it does not work. A homeopath nearly killed my sister by treating her with ineffective, useless fake medicine when she needed real medical attention. This is exactly what you will be doing to these poor people. Your misguided intent WILL kill people, and you will have to live with that for the rest of your life. Please, reconsider.

February 2, 2011 9:00 AM

and

laura said…
I know you believe in what you do,but there is no evidence that homeopathy works.

One day,you will realise this,and you conscience will weigh very heavily on you. i feel sorry for you,i would not like to look back on my life and see how much harm i had caused others by my unsubstantiated beliefs …sad

February 2, 2011 2:14 PM

and

Just zis Guy, you know? said…
Hey, homeopaths for health! So, are you pooling your takings from peddling psychotherapy to the credulous and sending some doctors down there? Oh, no, wait, you’re going on a jolly and handing out sugar pills to sick people. Well that’s a bit of a bummer for them, still, I am sure you will show real empathy when they die of medically preventable (but homeopathically unpreventable) diseases like cholera, typhoid and malaria.

February 2, 2011 3:49 PM

Do your own Google search to find the cached pages and compare them to Pollack’s scrubbed versions. It’s almost fun to see how poorly these types of people react when challenged.

But I guess I’m not surprised that a quack would try and destroy the criticism on her site. I’m just frightened to know the other facts she’s going to try and hide while she’s “treating” people over in Tanzania.

Wendy Pollack will hurt Tanzania

As regular FTSOS readers know, I visited Tanzania last year. It was an amazing experience filled with amazing people, both in my hiking group up Kilimanjaro and in the citizens I met. I can have nothing but goodwill for everyone I was fortunate enough to encounter. That’s why I find a Maine-based homeopathy group so distressing.

Homeopathy for Health in Africa is affiliated with Homeopaths Without Borders. The Mission of Homeopathy for Health in Africa: To relieve the suffering of as many HIV/AIDS patients as possible using classical homeopathy.

The leader of the group is Wendy Pollack, holder of a quacking chiropractic license in Maine. The area she will specifically be visiting is the Kilimanjaro region. I’ve been all through it. It’s composed of rampant poverty. The medical “facilities” consist of small shacks of basic medicine, most of which can be found in the first half of aisle 14 at your local Rite-Aid. I made sure to purchase evacuation insurance before departing because I wasn’t about to find my way into a Tanzanian hospital if anything happened; I never needed it, but seeing that part of the country only confirmed that I had made a good purchase.

All Pollack and her gang of anti-science quacks are going to achieve is the raising of ignorant hopes. It’s deplorable and horribly saddening. A whole bunch of very poor, very needy people are about to get a false helping hand.

I’ve been considering making a post or two describing how best to save money, which company to use, etc, when going to Kilimanjaro. I think I’ll wait until Pollack has left.

No highway through the Serengeti

The Tanzanian government has plans to build a road through the Serengeti. And it sounds like it’s going to be pretty ugly. But the only reason I even know about this is that someone wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper.

Why can’t we leave anything alone? Why put a major highway through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania?

Majestic animals such as elephants, wildebeests and zebras, use this region as their major means of getting around. The plains have been here for millions of years without human interference.

Why change it? These animals will be killed daily if a road is put through there. Let alone human life. I don’t believe you can run an elephant over and live to tell about it.

I don’t believe for one minute that God wants this to happen, either.

In America, we have taken most of the woodlands away from our animals, including moose and deer, and we wonder why these animals move into town. Then we end up killing the animals because they are interfering with humans.

Children often pay the price because they are easy targets for predators. This is not fair to the animals. Please leave the Serengeti alone.

Beverly Brickett

Manchester

I agree with the writer, though I’m not sure what any of this is doing in a letter to the editor of a Maine newspaper.

But she’s right in her sentiment (as for facts…well, I doubt there will be a lot of dead elephants on the side of the road). There is no good reason for destroying a place as special as the Serengeti. It seems to me the money allocated to a road project could be better spent on all that abject poverty I saw during my time in Tanzania.

But maybe I’m just crazy.

Hartlaub’s Turaco

Look at these manly legs.

This comes from Shira Camp 1, the first and least creatively named camp site on my trek up Kilimanjaro (or perhaps Shira Camp 2 wins that title). Since it was practically dark by the time we rolled in that first day, I’m going to hazard this comes from the morning of Day 2. (Actually, the warm water for washing – say it with a Swahili accent – tells me it definitely was morning.) So that means you’re seeing me as I wonder just what all the sounds were from the prior night.

My initial thought was baboon. In fact, several baboons. We had seen some on the way to the head of the Lemosho route.

They aren’t easy to make out, but they are there. And as far as I know, they may have stayed there because they actually weren’t surrounding the camp site that night. Or if they were, they were tucked in their beds snug as could be. What was actually making all the racket was the Hartlaub’s Turaco.

It’s a pretty awesome bird that is native to Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. From what I’ve been reading, it appears to be most numerous in Kenya, at least in small part because of excessive hunting in Tanzania. Fortunately, however, it faces no significant danger to its overall health as a species at this point. (In fact, its conservation status is “LC” or Least Concern, the lowest, and thus best, it can be.)

But I know as great as pretty pictures are, what everyone really wants is some sound. (It will link you out, but do click anyway.)

ARKive video - Hartlaub's turaco - overview

I think the deep throatiness of the baboon is discernible through the Hartlaub’s Turaco’s call. But perhaps it was the quiet of the encompassing night that made it seem all the more phenomenal to me; I couldn’t help but be convinced I was hearing baboons. Without a deeper knowledge, I can only speculate why the bird makes such a sound: perhaps it is imitation, but that doesn’t strike me as the most plausible explanation off-hand.

Thanks to Mike for providing the necessary information, the first photograph, and even the link to the video. I appreciate it.

A plea for beer

It is the most noble of pleas, is it not?

I’m looking for this:

I had the pleasure of drinking a few of these while in Moshi, but for the life of me I cannot seem to find them for personal order over here. I did manage to find them for large-scale purchase, but I really don’t plan on opening my own beer shack where I live. Does anyone have any information on how I might get hold of some Kilimanjaro Lager? There is also Serengeti Lager, and I would be pleased with that as well.