WTPAn experiment conducted by NASA showed that 6% of drivers deliberately swerve to hit animals, and described them as “sadistic animal killers”.

tortoise jpg
The experiment involved alternatively placing a rubber animal (and a leaf as a control object) on the shoulder of a road. The rubber animals were a turtle, a snake, or a spider. One thousand cars were then observed as they drove by and annotated the drivers’ reaction.It was found the 94% of drivers kept driving in their lane, whilst the remaining 6% went out of the driving lane to run over the animals. Interesting, 3.2% of this was the tarantula.


Similar studies have been conducted elsewhere in the world that have shown drivers will deliberately run-over snakes that bask on the road.

We found 45 Flap-neck Chameleon dead on the road over a 40-day period. Flap-neck Chameleon are largely arboreal, but are found on the ground during the breeding season which occurs from March to May. Males will actively seek out females, often crossing roads to their detriment, whilst females seek damp soil to lay their eggs. Due to its size (120-140 mm) and being one of the larger chameleon species, the Flap-neck Chameleon is feared by many tribal people and is the subject of much folklore. This may result in purposeful killing of them on the roads (Bonnet et al. 1998).


Similarly, two snake species also suffered high roadkill numbers with a total of 22 Brown House Snake and 24 Mozambique Spitting Cobra roadkill. Snakes are often resented and misunderstood by people with the attitude of ‘kill first’, ‘identify later’. Consequently, this may result in the deliberate killing on roads. Both the Mozambique Spitting Cobra and the Brown House Snake are nocturnal species with the former much feared due to its highly venomous bite. If snakes are deliberately killed on roads, then it is easy to understand why the Mozambique Spitting Cobra was targeted. However, this does not explain why the Brown House Snake may be deliberately targeted above the 22 other snake species detected as roadkill. One possible suggestion may be due to the similarity in appearance of the Brown House Snake to the juvenile Mozambique Spitting Cobra which are both brown in colour and may easily be mistaken for one another at night. Alternatively, it may mean that both the spitting cobra and the house snake are the two most abundant snake species in the area.BHS

Brown House Snake


Mozambique Spitting Cobra


About wendy collinson

Originally hailing from the UK, Wendy gained her Bachelor of Education in 1990, and spent 15 years teaching Physical Education in London to high school students. She moved to South Africa in 2005, beginning work as a research assistant with large carnivores, working on research projects initiated by the Endangered Wildlife Trust. Wendy’s education background has stood her in good stead as a tour guide, since she believes in an interactive approach, engaging guests in specialist carnivore research tours. In addition to her research and tours, Wendy is also the main organiser of the aptly named “BIKE4BEASTS” mountain bike race, organised annually to raise funds for the Endangered Wildlife Trust (www.bike4beast.coza) Wendy is a field worker with the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife and Transport Programme. She recently completed her Master’s degree at Rhodes University, Grahamstown South Africa, which examined the impacts of roads on South African wildlife.
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  1. Sue Ingram says:

    What an amasing study. The most pleasurable part must have been tricking them into driving over rubber animals!
    It sure looks difficult to determine the difference between the Brown House Snake and the Mozambique Spitting Cobra – by these pictures anyway – so it seems easy to understand why they would target both. However the real challenge lies in persuading people that snakes of any kind don’t need to be feared so much. Same applies to spiders and chameleons.
    Like so many things in life, knowledge is key to conquering fear.

    • Hi Sue,

      Thanks for your comment. You are 100% correct in that the challenge lies with creating more awareness and understanding around ‘what we fear’. It’s very ofetn the case of kill first and then identify afterwards.

      Thanks again for your support,


  2. Rob says:

    I wonder how large an animal people would aim for, i.e. at which point they’d worry more about damaging their vehicle, than killing “vermin”?

    • Excellent point Rob ……. it also raises the question of how many people will hit something for food? e.g. an antelope …. although, again, this is a risk to the driver and the vehicle!

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