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2012-04-12 12:40

ANIMAL ROAD DEATHS INCREASE: Wendy Collinson (Above) reported that 470 animals perished on a 100km section of road in SA during February and March 2012.

Wildlife researchers studying animal deaths on South Africa's roads have reported that at least 470 wild animals were killed by vehicles on a 100km of road over a 40-day period in February/March, 2012.

Wendy Collinson, in charge of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Road-kill Research and Mitigation Project, said the survey was part of the joint initiative between the EWT, Rhodes University, and Tshwane University of Technology.

Collinson said: "Despite road traffic being a known cause of wildlife deaths, research is scarce. Road-kill studies will enable wildlife researchers to compile policy suggestions for authorities who build and maintain roads." South Africa's total road network stretches for more than 600 000km.


Preliminary studies through 2011 identified birds as the greatest victims of vehicles and Collinson expressed concern that conflict with vehicles could be playing a greater-than-expected role in reducing populations of threatened bird species.

Funding for the project has been provided by Bridgestone, whose public relations manager Mandy Lovell said the research would also contribute to road safety.

"Collisions with bigger wild animals such as kudu can be fatal for vehicle occupants. This research will assist authorities and motorists to more effectively identify stretches of road with a higher risk of wildlife encounters.

The survey was conducted during February and March 2012 on a stretch of road in the Greater Mapungubwe Trans-frontier Conservation Area in Northern Limpopo. This region will see the removal of some fences as part of the trans-frontier strategy.

The 100km route was surveyed daily and surveys were also conducted on an additional 20km stretch of gravel road. The surveys were supplemented by a traffic study to gain insight into the usage of the roads and a questionnaire studying drivers' attitudes to road-kill, which was conducted at a local petrol station.

In total, 470 animal carcasses, of which 467 were identified, were found. Birds topped the victim list with 235 deaths, followed by reptiles (149), mammals (76), and amphibians (seven). Aardwolf, African civet and the bat-eared fox were among the larger mammal species found although pilot studies conducted in the area found cheetah, leopard and wild dog.

Of the 149 reptile species, 45 were flap-neck chameleon. Each road-kill site was photographed, logged by GPS and described in terms of the type of fencing and other road features.

The data indicated that certain stretches of road were hot spots for road-kill, others showed no deaths at all over the 40-day survey. The gravel road section had fewer road kills than the tarred road. Collinson said that many road kills were gone by the next day, scavenged by natural predators, which were themselves at risk of becoming the same fate.

Collinson commented: "We still need to do quite a lot more data analysis before we publish our final report. The public can followed the project online."

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