Bridgestone South Africa

Roadkill Study Highlights Wildlife Road Deaths

Apr 10, 2012
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Wildlife researchers studying wild animal deaths on South Africa's road network have released astonishing new data showing that at least 470 wild animals were killed in encounters with vehicles on just 100km of road over a 40-day period in February this year. South Africa's total road network exceeds 600 000km in length.

Wendy Collinson, Project Executant of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's (EWT) Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project (RRMP) said that the survey formed part of the RRMP, a joint initiative between the EWT, Rhodes University, and Tshwane University of Technology.

Said Collinson: "Despite road traffic being a known cause of wildlife deaths, research is scarce and roadkill studies will enable wildlife researchers to compile policy suggestions for authorities who build and maintain roads."

Preliminary studies conducted in 2011 identified birds as the animals most prone to roadkill, and Collinson expressed concern that conflict with vehicles could be playing a greater-than-expected role in reducing populations of threatened birds.

Funding for the project has been provided by Bridgestone, whose PR Manager, Mandy Lovell, said that the research would also contribute to better road safety. "Crashes with bigger wild animals such as Kudu can be fatal for vehicle occupants," she commented. "This research will assist authorities and motorists to more effectively identify stretches of road with a higher risk of wildlife encounters," she explained.

The most recent roadkill survey was conducted during February and March of 2012 on a stretch of road in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area in Northern Limpopo. This region will soon see the removal of some fences as part of the cross-border transfrontier strategy, and offered Collinson an opportunity to obtain baseline roadkill rates while the fences were still in place. "Fences are known to limit animal movement, and therefore reduce collisions," she commented.

The 100km route was surveyed daily and surveys were also conducted on an additional 20km stretch of gravel road, as well as on night-time routes. The surveys were supplemented by a traffic study to gain insight into the usage patterns of the roads and a questionnaire studying driver attitudes to roadkill, which was conducted at a local petrol station.

In total, 470 animal carcasses, of which 467 could be identified, were observed. Birds were again the leading victims with 235 deaths noted, followed by reptiles (149), mammals (76), and amphibians (7). Aardwolf, African Civet and Bat-eared Fox were amongst the larger mammal species found although pilot studies conducted in the area found Cheetah, Leopard, and the endangered African Wild Dog, of which there are only 390 remaining in South Africa. Of the 149 reptile species, 45 were Flap-neck Chameleon, and whilst not a threatened species, it is the impact on rarer species in the area where the real threat may lie. Each roadkill site was photographed, logged by GPS location and described in terms of the type of fencing and other features of the road.

Data indicate that certain stretches of road are hotspots for roadkill, while others showed no deaths at all over the 40-day survey. The gravel road had fewer roadkills than the tar road, and Collinson said that many roadkills were gone by the next day, scavenged by natural predators, which were themselves at risk of becoming roadkill.

"We still need to do quite a lot more data analysis before we publish our final report," Collinson explained. "Members of the public wanting to follow the progress of the project can find us online at http://roadkillresearch.wordpress.com," she concluded.

Contact:

Mandy Lovell

PR Manager

Bridgestone South Africa

Tel: +27 11923 7501

mlovell@bridgestone.co.za

 

Contact: Wendy Collinson

Project Executant

Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: +27 73 596 1673

wendyc@ewt.org.za

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Bridgestone South Africa

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