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NEW BLOG SITE

January 16, 2013

Thank you to all of you who have been supporting the Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project. This blog site can now be followed at:

http://endangeredwildlifetrust.wordpress.com/category/wildlife-and-transport-programme/

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Roadkill data crunching

August 28, 2012

Roadkill Research in South Africa

And so the data crunching has started, and we are beginning to look at the possible causes of roadkill. What’s really exciting is I’m working alongside Meg Murison, an Honours student, who is also based at Rhodes University. Many of you will remember that Meg featured in the February edition of our newsletter and spoke about the work that she is conducting on roadkill in the Eastern Cape. Meg applied the method that we devised across two ecological seasons, in a totally different part of South Africa, Not only is the vegetation  very different but so are many of the species that occur here. Whilst Meg found a number of different species, what is interesting about her preliminary data are her findings in each taxon.

From our two graphs you can see parallels between what we found – Meg and I both found more bird species during the hot / wet season than we did in the cold / dry season. While during the cold / dry season, mammal species dominated our findings.

We are both in our early stages of analysing our data, but there look to be some exciting comparison between two extreme ends of the country.

Image                   Number of roadkill detected over 120-days across three ecological seasons (Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Park Area, northern Limpopo)

 

 

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 Number of roadkill detected over a 20-day period across two ecological seasons (Grahamstown vicinity, Eastern Cape)

Meg also conducted her transects on two different road surfaces, tar and gravel roads. Both our preliminary data show that the percentage of roadkill detected on the tar road was higher than it was for the gravel. Meg’s gravel road was also very different to the description of the gravel road in Limpopo. Meg’s picture of a Genet shows the road surface to be more stony, whilst the gravel surface in Limpopo was more sandy.

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Percentage of roadkill detected across two ecological seasons, comparing two areas of South Africa and two road surfaces

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What’s in the news?

August 22, 2012

NEWS AND VIEWS

The project continues to move forwards especially with its merge with the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Airport Wildlife Programme. This will form a larger group, the Wildlife and Transport Programme which will look at all forms of impacts of transport on wildlife.

 

There have been some really interesting news reports from around the world concerning wildlife and roads – this month we feature a heart-rending story from Etosha. There is also a great story from Australia about wildlife and shipping – we often don’t consider that wildlife is at threat from other forms of transport. And this is where, the EWT’s Wildlife and Transport Group (WTP) is set to make its mark. The WTP already examines the impacts of roads and airports on wildlife ….. the next stage will be to incorporate trains and shipping.

ROAD ECOLOGY IN AFRICA – ENSURING OUR ROADS ARE WILDLIFE FRIENDLY

The mortality of wildlife due to collision with vehicles in Africa is the fifth greatest threat to carnivores. However, little attention has been given to this threat, and this is of significant concern in South Africa as we are the third most biologically diverse country on Earth. As a result the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife and Transport Programme (EWT-WTP) hosted two extremely successful and innovative road ecology workshops.

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 first workshop was hosted by the EWT at the International Wildlife Management Congress in Durban, 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.”

These workshops took participants through the concept of Road Ecology and some excellent case study presentations were made which outlined some of the findings of various research projects, and the mitigation measures available for use. Wendy Collinson of the EWT’s Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project 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.

As a result of the two workshops, the EWT-WTP will be collaborating with road agencies as well as other interested parties to develop an Action Plan that guides efforts to address the concerns.

For further information about the Wildlife and Transport Programme please contact Claire Patterson-Abrolat on clairep@ewt.org.za.

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.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

DAVID VS GOLIATH: LION CUBS GET CAUGHT IN ETOSHA TRAFFIC!

“Working as a guide in the bush, one gets the opportunity to experience unbelievable wildlife sights. But in three years guiding I have never seen anything like what we saw that fated afternoon in Etosha National Park.”

“I spotted a lioness walking through a huge grassy plain towards the road. We stopped short of her so as not to block her path and switched off the engine. When we got the binoculars on her, we noticed that she was in full lactation and she seemed very anxious. This is when I heard it first, a squeaky call that could only mean one thing… cubs! The lioness confirmed our suspicions by turning around and letting out a low, throaty oomph contact call. She started crossing the road and the tiniest little ball of fur stumbled out onto the road behind her. It then saw us and proceeded to stumble towards us, this may well have been the first time they had ever seen vehicles and weren’t sure how to react to them.”

“This was on the busiest road in Etosha and had caused a medium sized conglomeration of intimidating spectators. She decided that this was all too much and her cubs were too overwhelmed to follow her to safety on their own feet. So she picked one up ever so gently with jaws that crack buffalo bones and carried it off into the plain.”

“Meanwhile her other wayward cub decided it was a good idea to investigate a massive delivery truck, which gave us a great perspective as to how tiny they actually were. This did not comfort mom however, who frantically ran over to it, swatted flat, picked it up and deposited it in the relative protection of the plain’s long grass. One cub still remained between her and the gauntlet of vehicles which bothered her a lot.”

“The madness escalated when a black backed jackal arrived on the scene and showed interest in one of the cubs. The lioness was now torn between fetching her remaining cub near the vehicles, defending the other from the jackal and consoling the other one milling blind in the grass.”

“The mood in our vehicle varied from awe and amazement to fear and nervousness and finally guilt. It was time for us to get out of here, clearly all the spectating vehicles were impacting on this poor mother. The last thing we wanted was to have the death of one of these cubs on our hands. The problem was to convince all the other vehicles that our presence wasn’t helping the lioness’ predicament and that it would be best if we all gave her some space. The private tourist vehicles saw our point and agreed to move off but it was the game viewers full of tourists that were the challenge. The guides half agreed and switched their engines on but that’s as far as they went. It’s tricky trying to convince a local guide, who’s probably been guiding since we were in school, that we know what’s best. With mixed emotions we left we the sighting, hoping that the lioness recovered her remaining cub and that she reunited with the pride.”

Matthew Weaver (All photographs copyright of Matthew Weaver)

http://blog.africageographic.com/safari-blog/bush/david-vs-goliath-lion-cubs-get-caught-in-etosha-traffic/

 

SYDNEY FERRY HITS WHALES IN HARBOUR

A humpback whale and her calf were left injured after a collision with a ferry in Sydney Harbour. The Collaroy, which was operating the 8.40am service from Circular Quay to Manly, hit an unknown object, damaging its propeller blade. Aerial footage later identified a female humpback whale with a wound near its dorsal fin, and its calf with an 80-centimetre gash.

Richard Ford, of Whale Watching Sydney, said one of his boat captains saw the ferry collide with one of the whales. “Then we saw the whale spend a little bit of time on the surface and then start swimming again. We all knew the whales were around there and an alert had come out earlier on the radio, so we knew the whales were in the vicinity and everyone was keeping a watch out. The captain said it just popped up in front of the ferry; there was nothing the ferry could do to avoid it.”

The NSW Department of Heritage and Environment said that the whale and her calf had left Sydney Harbour and appeared fine, and that hopefully it will survive with just a nasty scar.

An adult humpback could grow to 14 metres and weigh up to 40 tonnes. The calf was estimated to be three metres in length and weighing up to three tonnes. “Because they have a thick layer of blubber, any damage from a propeller usually doesn’t impact on the muscle tissue.” . The incident comes after a 10-metre, 20-tonne male humpback was found dead in an ocean pool at Newport Beach, north of Sydney, last week.

http://www.smh.com.au/environment/whale-watch/sydney-ferry-hits-whales-in-harbour-20120806-23p9z.html

Road Ecology Workshop, South Africa 2012

July 23, 2012

ROAD ECOLOGY IN AFRICA: STATE OF THE SCIENCE AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS TO ACHIEVE A SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM.

Background

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 meters. 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 (e.g. 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.  Most road ecology research in Africa has focused on the rate and location of wildlife mortality and includes a small number of studies from South Africa, Zambia and Botswana.

 

The mortality of wildlife due to collision with vehicles in Africa is the fifth greatest threat to wildlife (after human conflict, habitat decline, interspecific conflict, and disease).  However, little attention has been given to this threat, with most effort focusing on quantifying the effects of collisions on humans. This is of significant concern, particularly in South Africa, which is the third most biologically diverse country on Earth.

 

Africa is fundamentally different to Europe and North America and the information and lessons learned in these developed countries are unlikely to be directly applicable. Major differences exist between the species of wildlife, landscapes and geography, the density of roads and humans, and funding and support for road ecology research and mitigation measures.  Additionally, roads are integral to the financial development and prosperity of the local and national economy and there is a potential conflict between development and conservation. The recent conflict over the proposed Serengeti Highway highlights these challenges in developing countries. Further research and discussion is required to ensure roads are ecologically sustainable and improve people’s livelihoods and recent work suggests that these two aims (development and conservation) are not always mutually exclusive.

ROAD ECOLOGY WORKSHOP

We have recently returned from two extremely successful and innovative road ecology workshops. The first was hosted at the International Wildlife Management Congress in Durban, and the second was hosted by the Endangered Wildlife Trust 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. 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, 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.

Rod introduced us to the concept of ‘Road Ecology’ – a well-used term in the rest of the world, but new to Africa. He also provided some extremely helpful data on mitigation measures that have been successful in other parts of the world. Dan provided more detail on the impacts of roads globally highlighting how much work has been done over the last 20 years.

 

 

Claire Patterson-Abrolat (of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s newly formed Wildlife Transport Programme) presented an African perspective, highlighting the need for greater study and that Africa really is the ‘dark continent’ for road ecology, with studies being mainly focussed in southern and eastern Africa.

 

Road ecology studies conducted globally and in Africa

 

We also had some excellent case study presentations. Susie Weeks of the Mt Kenya Trust, elephant project, flew in especially from Tanzania to give us a fascinating talk on the elephant corridor in Mt Kenya. This corridor has allowed elephant herds to move safely from one section of the park to another, therefore avoiding crossing of a busy highway.

Elephant underpass in Mt Kenya

Kerryn Bullock provided a more localised study looking at the impacts of roads on birds and mammal on the R360 on the Upington to Twee Rivieren main road in the southern Kalahari, South Africa. During the 6 month period 184 road mortalities were recorded from 22 species: 152 mammals and 32 birds

 

Kerryn Bullock: top number of mammal and bird species detected

And of course, the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project presented preliminary data from the recent fieldwork with statistics that shocked many of the delegates.

As a result of the two workshops, the EWT’s Wildlife Transport Programme will be collaborating with road agencies as well as other interested parties to develop a 5-year Action Plan that will start to address some of the ideas discussed during the workshops. The feedback from the attendees was outstanding and it’s an incredibly exciting time for future work that will examine, not only the impacts of roads on wildlife, but airstrikes, railroads and shipping.

Thank you to our presenters and all of you who attended the workshop especially to our road ecology cousins from overseas. We look forward to working with you further and developing a plan of action that will keep our wildlife safe on roads.

Photo credit: Robyn Joubert, Farmers Weekly.

From left to right: Wendy Collinson, Rodney van der Ree, Daniel Smith, Harriet Davies-Mostert

 

Details of the workshop will be uploaded onto the EWT’s website.

The Nose that knows!

June 16, 2012

Barclay and Wendy out at work on the verges.
Barclay, a German Shorthaired pointer, on loan from Green Dogs Conservation (www.greendogsconservation.com) is a new member of the Roadkill Research and Mitigation Project team.
While wildlife killed directly on the roads is easy to spot from a vehicle on the transects that are driven, wildlife hit and thrown into the verges, or that crawls a small distance before dying will not be easy to spot. By teaching Barclay to scour the verges for roadkill or remains of it, we will be able to work out how much of what is killed we are actually seeing and how much is missed. So simple but so effective!
(Reprinted by kind permission of Green Dogs Conservation. Photos: Bianca Engelbrecht and Anka Bedetti)
http://www.greendogsconservation.com/the-dog-blog.html

When a sparrow falls …

June 1, 2012

I don’t think there is a single person amongst us who cannot claim to having not seen a dead animal lying on the road. But how many of us can vouch for seeing one of those ‘dead animals’ that we drive past, actually being alive, and consequently, then stopping the vehicle to take a look. Often, it is unsafe to do this, as there are other cars around, and we may create further road incidents.

The following three cases report on the remarkable resilience of wildlife.

A European Swallow was hit and killed on the road. Here, the photographer reports (rather dramatically) on what the mate then did.

A female European Swallow is injured by a car as she swooped low across the road. The male was seen attempting to feed her whilst on the road. Despite his efforts, she died. He then continued to sit by the body, as if chirping out his grief.

A coyote was hit by a car at 75 mph, embedded in the fender, road for 600 miles – and SURVIVED!

When a brother and sister struck a coyote at 75 mph they assumed they had killed the animal and drove on. They didn’t realize this was the toughest creature ever to survive a hit-and-run. Eight hours, two fuel stops, and 600 miles later they found the wild animal embedded in their front fender – and very much alive.

Daniel and Tevyn East were driving at night along Interstate 80 near the Nevada-Utah border when they noticed a pack of coyotes near the roadside. When one of the animals ran in front of the car, the impact sounded fatal so the siblings thought there no point in stopping. “Right off the bat, we knew it was bad,” Daniel explained. “We thought the story was over.” After the incident around 1am, they continued their 600 mile drive to North San Juan – even stopping for fuel at least twice. But it was only when they finally reached their destination at 9am did they take time to examine what damage they may have sustained. Daniel saw fur and the body inside the grill, and assumed it was part of the coyote – it didn’t register it was the whole animal.

Daniel got a broom to try and pry the remains out of the bumper and got the shock of his life. “It flinched,” Tevyn said. What Daniel spotted as he bent down to inspect the damage to his car was the body of the coyote poking out through the radiator. As the animal struggled, wildlife protection officials put a loop around its neck to prevent it from further injuring itself.

The front of the car is completely taken apart as the coyote then wriggled free. The coyote survived with just some scrapes to its paw.

And then to our final story that involves a Pearl Spotted Owlet.

Whilst driving my roadkill transect the other day, I spotted a bird roadkill lying in the middle of the road. On getting out of the car to try and identify the bird, I noticed it was still moving. I picked it up and saw it was a Pearl Spotted Owlet. Whilst fairly common, it is not always easy to see these beautiful birds, mainly because of their small size and being nocturnal.

I held it in my hand, not feeling very optimistic about its survival. Very often, many animals sustain internal injuries from being hit by cars and therefore do not survive. Giving it the name OW, I contacted a bird expert who had experience with bird roadkills. He suggested monitoring OW’s progress over the next 24 hours and if he had sustained major injuries, he would most likely not survive the night.

OW looked to be concussed as he was slightly dazed, but he soon dug his sharp talons into my hand as he started to revive. He was very inquisitive about his surroundings and attempted to fly. He fluttered briefly over the ground, but couldn’t gain any height. Whilst both wings looked intact, one could see a small bleed near the top of one wing, which suggested a break. OW is continuing to improve and is attacking food with relish – we must very soon attempt to release him or alternatively give him to a rehabilitation centre. Again, despite the tragedy, it is a privilege to be so close to one of these amazing birds – to see its beautiful feathers, its piercing yellow eyes, and its feisty character to survive.

Seven Impala killed by reckless driver in the Kruger National Park

May 15, 2012

 

Kruger National Park

A driver of a delivery truck (with trailer attached) belonging to one of the contractors currently working in the Kruger National Park, Shivers Contracting Company who collided with a herd of impala last week on the Kruger Gate – Skukuza road; which resulted in the deaths of at least seven impala was slapped with a hefty fine of R2500.

SANParks not only grieves for the loss of the impala but is also saddened that such an incident took place in a protected area, which is meant for safeguarding of these animals. We have decided to take action against the offending driver; who has been charged with failure to comply with the management rule, NEMA: Protected Areas Act, 57/2003 as well as inconsiderate driving to other road users by driving fast on the road and getting involved in an accident, which led to killing our impala”, said the KNP’s Head of Public Relations, William Mabasa. Impala, especially fighting rams tend to chase each other in the bush and over the roads, mostly when they are in their rutting season; either to gain dominance over each other or to round their female counterparts to join up their harems. “We’d like to appeal to the public to always be on the look-out for all kinds of species while driving on the roads in the Park as they are a general site; therefore please remember that these animals have a right of way”, continued Mabasa.

The accident happened at around 17:30 on Wednesday, 2 May 2012 and the vehicle was driving towards Skukuza. Eyewitnesses have stated that the vehicle overtook their cars at high speed, only to slam over the poor impala at the junction of Paul Kruger and Skukuza Staff Village roads. “The vehicle belongs to one of our contractor; however strict measures had to be taken against the driver as we cannot afford to allow this sort of behaviour by anyone, including our business partners. We expect this move will act as a deterrent, while we also hope and pray that a similar incident will not repeat itself in future,” concluded Mr Mabasa.

Impala in Mapungubwe National Park (photo: Neil Aldridge)