It's not often one travels a few days in the Kruger National Park (KNP) and is spared the unwelcome sight of a roadkill. This is not a sight restricted to South Africa's nature reserves. According to the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Wildlife and Transport Programme (EWT-WTP) the mortality of wildlife due to collisions with vehicles in Africa is the fifth greatest threat to carnivores.
The increased interconnectedness created by social media platforms and digital technology has allowed for the EWT-WTP to include the public in their plans to reduce roadkill. An app, Road Watch, designed for Smartphone users has been launched. The app allows the public to report any roadkill incidents to a platform where the total amount of roadkills will be recorded. In addition to the cellphone app, there are various other ways for these incidents to be reported, including Facebook, LinkedIn and via email.
The project aims to reduce wildlife deaths by locating the areas where unusually high numbers of wildlife die in roadkill accidents, and implement measures to reduce the fatalities. This cost-effective way of monitoring wildlife deaths involves the public, providing information from a larger area than would be financially possible if the Trust had to monitor each area on their own account.
A success story is the endangered Western Leopard Toad in Noordhoek, Western Cape. The mortality rate had been eliminated form 23.7% after a barrier had been installed to prevent the toads from reaching the road.
Linear infrastructure, such as roads, railways and utility easements, dissects all continents and influences biodiversity and ecosystem processes for many hundreds and even thousands of kilometers. Combined with vehicles, their effects on wildlife are often negative and profound. In the past two decades, research on the effects of roads and traffic and the use and effectiveness of mitigation works, for example fencing and wildlife crossing structures, has increased dramatically in Europe, North America and Australia.
However, the uptake of road ecology in Africa has been slower and it is not a routine part of road construction or management.
The EWT-WTP hosted two extremely successful and innovative road ecology workshops to look at case studies, research and strategies that could mitigate roadkills.
"The first workshop was hosted by the EWT at the International Wildlife Management Congress in Durban in 2012, and the second at their headquarters in Modderfontein, Johannesburg. The purpose of the two workshops was to explore the impacts of roads and traffic on wildlife and showcase innovative and practical solutions," commented Claire Patterson-Abrolat, Manager of the EWT-WTP.
"We were extremely lucky to have two world-renowned road ecologists providing expertise at both of our workshops: Dr Rodney van der Ree from the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology from the University of Melbourne, and Dr Daniel J. Smith, from the University of Central Florida. Both workshops were extremely well attended with wildlife representatives from across the world as well as delegates from our national roads agencies."
Wendy Collinson of the EWT's Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project also shared her findings of roadkill surveys conducted over the last year in the Greater Mapungubwe Area in the northern Limpopo. Driving 100km daily across 120 days, she detected more than 1100 roadkills comprising 166 different species.
The Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project is a project initiated by the EWT, Rhodes University and Tshwane University of Technology with funding from Bridgestone SA. E O & Son, De Beers Consolidated Mines, Rhodes University and Mopane Bush Lodge.
Endangered Wildlife Trust