PRETORIA, South Africa – We’ve all driven past the corpse of an animal on or alongside a road or freeway – even in a game park – after a collision with a sometimes too fast-moving vehicle.
However, not only animals might be involved. International award-winning researcher Wendy Collinson-Jonker, manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife and Transport Programme, told The Corner in a media release: “Of the 45 humans killed in crashes on South Africa’s roads every day we estimate a third died after a collision with wildlife.
“The insurance industry pays out about R82.5-million a year for wildlife/vehicle collisions but the costs to our wildlife and tourism industry,are never calculated. Wildlife is one of the major attractions for tourists and wildlife tourism is expected to have grown significantly by 2030.”
“Unfortunately wildlife collisions are common in our parks. With ever more vehicles expected on the roads in years to come, an anticipated increase in WVC collisions is a cause for serious concern. If you consider that many of the species being killed are already on the endangered list – such as the African Wild Dog – the costs could be very high.”
MORE ROADS PERIL
As more roads are built, The Corner was told, and more vehicles take to the roads, the attention of scientists to the ecological effects of roads has resulted in the emergence of the science of road ecology.
Roadkill researchers working in this field are like police detectives. They gather forensic evidence (roadkill data) at the scene to build a case (identification of roadkill hot spots). The evidence helps to determine the outcome of the case – traffic calming measures, for instance.
The Ford Wildlife Foundation has sonsored a project vehicle. Collinson explained: “As an NGO, we rely on assistance from core supporters to do our work. Collinson. One is the Ford Wildlife Foundation with their sponsorship of a Ford Ranger – the latest assistance in a 30-year alliance.”
So how is roadkill used? Collinson explained: ”Roadkill data collected over time allows us to identify trends of where WVC collisions are most common and when the greatest number of impacts occur – months and day or night. We can identify migration corridors for various species and roadkill hot spots where mitigation measures can be implemented.”
Much of the carnage on our roads happens at night, and if you’ve ever wondered why you’re not allowed to drive around inside game reserves after sunset, this is the main reason.
“Input from the public is also hugely appreciated,” she adds. “Anybody with a smartphone can be a citizen scientist. Send in photographs of roadkill, along with the location, date, and time, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org) or use the EWT’s Road Watch app.”