Wildlife and Roads Project
Roads are integral to the continued development and prosperity of South Africa’s economy. However, roads also have the potential to destroy and degrade habitat, as well as fragment wildlife populations. Traffic, particularly when reckless driving is involved, can have a direct negative impact on wildlife, with many species at risk from wildlife-vehicle-collisions, often resulting in an animal’s death, or ‘roadkill’.
A relatively large body of international literature is available on mitigation measures to reduce conflict between road infrastructure and wildlife. However, few of these techniques have been tested for applicability to the species and situations found in South Africa, despite the country’s legislative framework that necessitates environmental impact assessments for development. This is in part due to a lack of understanding of the impacts of road development on wildlife. Work conducted since 2010 by the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife and Roads Project (EWT-WRP) has accelerated a greater understanding of the impact of road infrastructure on wildlife, and provided potential solutions to minimise wildlife road mortality, resulting in the emerging scientific discipline of Road Ecology.
The goal of road ecology is to provide planners with scientific advice on how to minimise or mitigate negative environmental impacts of transportation. Road Ecology in South Africa is a rapidly emerging field of research for which the EWT is spearheading pioneering initiatives, and being recognised as being at the forefront of this area of research. The EWT-WRP is the only large-scale initiative in the country that tackles the issue of wildlife deaths on our roads head on.
TRANSPORT - WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
Although the transport industry (road, rail, air, marine) is massive, it is still developing rapidly in South Africa in accordance with the country’s National Development Plan. The transport industry caters for both commercial and passenger vehicles. Despite recognition of transport infrastructure being a threat to biodiversity, such infrastructure developments are required for economic growth. Current developments are conducted with little or no thought given to protecting biodiversity. Wildlife mortality resulting from vehicle collisions has been recognised as a threat to wildlife, although the extent is unknown. For example, roads cross a variety of landscapes from urban developments to agricultural farm land and wildlife conservation areas, often bringing vehicles into conflict with wildlife. Incidents with all forms of transport (planes, trains, automobiles and marine shipping) are also common although grossly under reported. To date, little attention has been paid to some of these concerns and even less has been done to address the overall threat in southern Africa. South Africa is one of the most biologically diverse country on Earth and hosts a multitude of species and habitats, many of which are unique. With populations of many vertebrate species coming under increasing pressure from human development, the demand for rapid, resourceful methods of recognising the latent threat caused by transport is becoming more urgent in South Africa.
Aims and objectives: The EWT works to address the identified concerns in the transport sector, through: