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March 16, 2011
Robin, a volunteer from Holland, with Global Vision International 
Robin Pijls (Global Vision International Volunteer) entering into the spirit of the speed trials

We are continuing to monitor the numbers of roadkill on the roads, and are shocked by the results. Species that are hit are completely varied from Black-backed Jackal, to Raucous Toad, from the beautiful European Bee-eater to the Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. The overall figures are going to be very interesting.


Black-backed Jackal Roadkill



We have completed our speed trials, whereby we assessed the most economical speed to drive at in order to detect roadkill as well as actually get the job done in a desirable time. Something I wanted to examine was the ability of an ‘untrained’ eye to detect roadkill in comparison to my ‘supposed’ expert eye. I called in the local volunteer organisation, Global Vision International (GVI), who are currently assisting with research on the lion population on the De Beers Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve. Always willing to assist with additional research in the area, Ester Van der Merwe, the base manager, allowed me to work with her 15 volunteers and staff members for two afternoons.

Having already conducted speed trials with myself as both the driver and as the passenger over speeds of 20kph to 100kph on the tar road, and speeds of 20kph to 60kph on the gravel-dirt roads, I wanted to compare my roadkill detection rate with someone who was not used to looking for roadkill.

I briefed the volunteers on the project and what they were to assist with, and introduced a competitive element, with a trophy supplied by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (one of their water bottles!) I showed the volunteers what the ‘fake’ roadkill looked like and how it would be placed on the road. They were to be driven on the 1km course once over 3 different speeds, and would simply have to call out ‘large’ or ‘small’, depending on what fake roadkill they managed to detect. There were a total of 20 scattered randomly on the course, 10 large, and 10 small.

They started at 20kph on the tar road, which is the minimum speed conducted in previous roadkill detection. Most of them found this relatively easy and I could see the potential boredom in their faces, as in ‘she must think we are idiots if we can’t spot these!’ Things changed though once they drove at 50kph and then 100kph. There were many embarrassed exclamations that they couldn’t see the roadkill.

I tallied up the scores at the end of the 3 speeds tested on the tar road, and announced the results. Already there was a determined competitive air amongst the volunteers, particularly as the staff members were also taking part. The latter interested me greatly, since the staff members were used to working in the bush, and potentially had good eyes when it came to spotting game – how would they then perform when it came to detecting roadkill?

For the dirt road, I had tested myself over three different speeds, 20, 40 and 60kph. I asked the volunteers to work at 20and 60kph. This was extremely interesting as the gravel road is not smooth like the tar road, but has additional ‘debris’ on the 1km route. The volunteers had to scan the roads even more carefully than they had done on the tar road to ensure they detected a roadkill and not a rock. Already at 20kph, we started to notice that some of the more ‘confident’ volunteers struggled to achieve more than 80% detection.

When it came to detecting the fake roadkill at 60kph, the volunteers really struggled, with the lowest score being 2 out of 20. Needless to say, I had to award a prize for this one!

The overall results were extremely interesting with some volunteers being ‘totally useless’ at detecting roadkill. Whilst this provided a bit of a ‘laugh’ amongst us all, it did prove to me, that in order to participate in roadkill detection studies, one has to have a fairly trained eye. We noticed that some of the volunteers naturally had this, and the staff members, who had trained ‘bush’ eyes, were equally able to adapt quickly to a different type of detection and scored the highest

Congratulations to Andre de Kock (GVI staff member) and Brie Sloggett (GVI Intern) for gaining the top scores, and commiserations to Ben Gorrad and Ainslie Johnstone.


The Global Vision International volunteers and staff


(From left to right: Back row. John  de Jager, Maggie Curtis, Robin Pijls, Amy Trafford, Rachel Bower.

Front row: Wendy Collinson (researcher project leader), Ainslie Johnstone, Bradley Price, Brie Slogett


The whole team were great, and once they understood the importance of what they were participating in threw themselves into it. One volunteer member even asked for a re-count as it became that competitive.

 Thank you to Global Vision International staff members and their volunteers: Ester Van der Merwe (Base Manager), Andre de Kock (Research Assistant), John de Jager (staff member), Brie Sloggett (GVI intern), Lauren Perry (GVI intern),   Maggie Curtis, Gamma Annan, Ben Gorrad, Amy Trafford, Laura Bull, Robin Pijls, Ainslie Johnstone, Bradley Price, Sean Ryan, Rachel Bower, Sally Brothwell and  Sarah Allman(Volunteers) and …… Anka Bedetti, my volunteer!  – you did a great job!


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