By Wendy Collinson, Manager: EWT Wildlife and Roads Project
Eight African road ecologists are off to France later this year to attend the fifth Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE), an international conference on ecology and transportation. IENE is a network of experts working with various aspects of transportation, infrastructure and ecology. The network was initiated in 1996 to provide an independent, international and interdisciplinary arena for the exchange and development of expert knowledge, and with the aim to promote a safe and ecologically sustainable pan-European transport infrastructure.
The EWT first attended the conference in 2014, the first time Africa has been represented, and where we were the proud recipients of the prestigious IENE Personal Achievement Award. This was to recognise our achievements in communication, awareness raising and new projects for mitigating the impacts of roads on wildlife in South Africa. It was a huge honour to receive the award and to be recognised by so many leading experts in the field.
Our attendance at the 2016 IENE conference will see a flood of presentations from African road ecology experts organised into a ‘special Africa session’. This will be the first time that so many representatives from Africa have attended an international conference on this subject and it was made possible with the support of the French Foreign Ministry, the French Embassy in Tanzania, the French Embassy in South Africa, the Fondation pour la Recherche sur la Biodiversité and the IENE Programme Committee.
We will be presenting on our work conducted in South Africa and Tanzania highlighting three of our roadkill mitigation projects; using low-level fences to reduce roadkill in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area for amphibians, reptiles and small mammals, and in Noordhoek, Cape Town for the Endangered Western Leopard Toad, with the third project that uses bridges over roads to reduce samango monkey roadkill in the Soutpansberg. Two other presentations will showcase our five-year project that undertakes an assessment of roadkill in protected areas. We will also be presenting our findings of roadkill data gathered through citizen science, and the value of data in making decisions for conserving biodiversity on roads. Driver behaviour and attitudes towards animals on roads is poorly understood and research undertaken in Tanzania will be one of the first studies to present this, whilst the positive benefits of roadkill will also be discussed and how it can assist in identifying parasites.
This will be the first time that so many voices from Africa will be heard at one forum dealing with matters of road ecology and it is hoped that there will be opportunities for collaboration with other international experts in this field. We hope to learn more about roadkill–reduction methods that have been successfully trialled in other countries so that we may adapt and apply them here. We also hope to share some of our good practices that are ‘leading the way’ in promoting human-vehicle-safety in South Africa as well as conserving wildlife through a reduction in wildlife-vehicle-collisions.
The EWT’s Wildlife and Roads Project is supported by Bridgestone SA, N3 Toll Concession, Bakwena Platinum Corridor Concession, De Beers Group Services and Mikros Traffic Monitoring. Collaborations with the listed projects include: Rhodes University, University of the Free State, University of Limpopo, University of Venda, North West Parks and Tourism Board, South African National Parks, Lajuma Research Centre, Toad NUTS Volunteer Group, and Centre for Wildlife Management Studies, Tanzania.