South Africa steering initiatives for road ecology

With many wildlife species coming under increasing pressure from human development, there is a need for guidance around the planning of environmentally sustainable transport infrastructure. Developed by the EWT, “The Road Ahead: Guidelines to mitigation methods to address wildlife road conflict in South Africa” is the first handbook that offers key information for reducing the impacts of wildlife habitats and roads, and provides solutions for improved driver safety and the conservation of biodiversity and the environment.

On a daily basis, an average of 45 people die and 410 are injured on roads in South Africa; that’s a staggering 18,000 road deaths a year, giving South Africa one of the highest death rates in the world, according to figures from the Medical Research Council. What isn’t widely publicised, is the fact that wildlife is also significantly impacted on by road collisions. The EWT strongly believes that by working with relevant stakeholders within the transport sector, it is possible to design infrastructure, and support services that ensure the safety of both transportation users and wildlife. Furthermore, such infrastructure should support the economic needs of the country by enabling the goals of the National Infrastructure Plan (2012) and the National Development Plan (2013). “The Road Ahead: Guidelines to mitigation methods to address wildlife road conflict in South Africa” is intended for use by a range of stakeholders including road development agencies, environmental assessment practitioners, decision-makers such as the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Transport, and research institutions.

Copies of the handbook can be downloaded from our website at: https://www.ewt.org.za/WTP/WTP%20handbook%202016.pdf

A rising interest in road ecology on the continent also saw the first special Africa session hosted at the fifth Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE), an international conference on ecology and transportation, which took place from 30 August to 2 September 2016. 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 has been spearheading pioneering initiatives in the area of road ecology research in South Africa since 2010 through its Wildlife and Roads Project, and relished the opportunity to form part of an African contingent at this prestigious conference.

Presentations from the African delegates included work conducted in South Africa and Tanzania highlighting three roadkill mitigation projects. These included the use of low-level fences erected by the roadside to reduce roadkill for amphibians, reptiles and small mammals in northern Limpopo, and in Noordhoek, Cape Town for the Endangered Western Leopard Toad, as well as a project that uses bridges over roads to reduce Samango Monkey roadkill in the Soutpansberg. Two other presentations showcased our five-year project that undertakes an assessment of roadkill in protected areas, whilst we also presented our findings of roadkill data gathered through citizen science, and its value in making decisions for conserving biodiversity on the roads. Understanding driver behaviour and attitudes towards animals on roads is little understood and research undertaken in Tanzania was one of the first studies to present this. In addition, the benefits of roadkill were also discussed, including how it can assist in identifying parasites.

This year’s IENE project Award went to the Handbook of Road Ecology, a book designed to connect current scientific knowledge and practical requirements to address the pressing issues of transportation infrastructure development. The book has 114 authors from over 25 countries. Rodney van der Ree and his co-editors Daniel Smith and Clara Grilo brought together the world’s leading researchers, academics, practitioners and transportation agency personnel to present the current status of the ecological sustainability of the linear infrastructure. The EWT is proud of their contribution to this impressive and inspiring book that is attracting more people to the field of road ecology.

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. Support has also come from 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.

Wendy Collinson, Wildlife and Roads Project Executant
WendyC@ewt.org.za

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