TRAGIC LOSS: The Endagered Wildlife Trust says that inattentive drivers contribute to roadkill because they're not concentrating on the road ahead. Image: Bridgestone
JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng - A survey conducted by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) revealed some of the causes of wildlife killed by passing traffic, commonly referred to as roadkill, in South Africa.
The survey was conducted by the EWT in the Pilanesberg national park, North West Province, from October 21 to November 23 2014, consisted of on-site investigation of roadkill as well as questionnaires completed by visitors to the park.
Of the 120 incidents of roadkill observed by researchers, 62 were amphibians, 27 reptiles, 20 birds, ten were mammals and one was "not unidentified".
SPEED AND ROADKILL
One of the most interesting aspects of the project was the role inattentive drivers played in animal deaths. The survey showed that most drivers monitored adhered to speed limits.
EWT's wildlife and roads project leader, Wendy Collinson, said: "More than 95% of respondents to the questionnaire survey believe that speed is the sole cause of roadkill. Our aim was to investigate this issue in more detail.”
Compliance with park speed limits was determined to be high, with 72% of the 6981 vehicles monitored driving at or below speed limits. To investigate the role of speed in determining rates of roadkill, the research team placed fake animals on the road and observed the behaviour of 201 drivers.
Collinson said: “Of these drivers, almost 70% were considered to not be looking at the road but rather scanning the bush for wildlife.
“This suggests that many roadkills in national parks happen because of the expectation that animals are to be found in the habitat alongside the road, rather than on the road."
The team did not find a significant relationship between the number of fake animals hit and the speed at which the vehicles were travelling, with 71% of drivers hitting animals when assessed to be driving less than 20km/h, 62% when driving at 20-40 km/h and 74% driving more than 60km/h.
Collinson commented: “From our survey, it seems that observation levels of the driver, rather than the speed of the vehicle, is the key factor in preventing roadkills.”
DRIVERS SHOULD BE MORE AWARE
“One of our recommendations from the latest roadkill survey is that a driver awareness campaign be launched in parks to make drivers more aware of animals on the roads themselves.”
She said she was concerned about the low awareness levels of animals killed on the road among park visitors.
Collinson said: “Of the 284 respondents who had visited a park previously, only 2.8% had noticed roadkill, with 6.3% noticing a roadkill on their current visit.”
The next stage of the project will shortly commence in Addo Elephant National Park.
Visit www.ewt.org.za for more information