SAVING LIVES WITH CAMERA TRAPS

Wendy Collinson, Manager, EWT Wildlife and Transport Programme
WendyC@ewt.org.za

The N3 Toll Concession (N3TC) started collecting records of animals killed on their roads in 2011, and as part of their ongoing safety programme began working with the EWT’s Wildlife and Transport Programme (WTP) to address the concerns they had in this regard. Since 2014, the WTP has provided training to their staff responsible for patrolling the N3 route and dealing with safety hazards such as dead animals on the road, analysing the data they have collected to date with a view to implementing actions to reduce the number of animals killed on their route; and, providing quarterly reports with directions for future work.

As a result of our partnership, we have identified roadkill hotspots through the production of a roadkill sensitivity map, as well as publishing national guidelines to minimise the impacts of roads on wildlife. Of almost 2,500 roadkill data points received from N3TC, we have identified sections of the route where roadkill reports are highest and generated maps to highlight this.

From the roadkill hotspot sections of the route, we undertook site visits to assess areas where mitigation could take place through looking at existing road structures to determine how they benefit wildlife. We identified sites to deploy cameras rotated between different culverts / tunnels under the N3 in 2019, to determine which species occurred in the vicinity of, and which species actually used the crossing structures to move from one side of the road to the other.

Although these structures were mostly not built or erected for the express purpose of being wildlife passages, the hypothesis is that some structures will still fulfil this function. Currently there is little data available on the benefits of existing structures in South Africa that highlight areas where wildlife utilise crossings. Therefore, surveys will enable us to obtain a quick and cost-effective method of gaining a greater understanding of these benefits and propose appropriate recommendations to existing structures to address the threat of roads to wildlife. We have identified a number of species using these corridors, such as porcupine, mongoose and Serval.

Based on data received from the camera traps, it is apparent that some species are definitely electing to use the structures beneath the road as safer options to cross the road, so we are now embarking on a project to actively direct animals towards the culverts under the road.

For small vertebrates (i.e. amphibians, reptiles and rabbit-size and smaller), low-level mesh fences have proven successful when added to the roadside verge to guide the individuals towards passages. Whilst this method is unlikely to prevent animals larger than a rabbit from crossing a road, it may aid in preventing scavenging by the meso-carnivores as well as owls or other birds of prey, since much of their prey should be prevented from crossing the road by the fence and ‘forced’ to use the culverts instead. This ultimately not only saves wildlife from becoming roadkill but can save human lives through preventing collisions resulting in vehicle damage, injury or death to vehicle occupants.

Watch this space for more updates and thank you to the route patrollers on the N3TC, Bakwena and TRAC N4 routes who continue to work during this difficult period to keep those working in the essential services and having to use roads safe!