Nonprofit wildlife and ecosystem conservation organisation the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is partnering with diamonds producer and purveyor De Beers Group to tackle the impact of roads on wildlife in the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA), in Limpopo.
The EWT previously conducted intensive surveys of wildlife killed on the roads traversing the GMTFCA, an area that was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003 and is recognised as an important area for conservation and cultural heritage.
“Over a 120-day period in 2012/13, I found about 1 121 road kill carcasses of various reptiles and mammals. This did not account for animals that had been crawled off the road to die after being hit or had been scavenged by predators,” explains EWT wildlife and roads project executant Wendy Collinson.
From these surveys, a major road kill hotspot was identified on one section of the road in the GMTFCA. On days when large trucks were using the road, road kill numbers also increased.
Road kill continues to be an “eyesore” to visitors to the area and a threat to the wildlife, as well as a potential danger to motorists when hitting larger species, says Collinson.
In June, a female leopard was killed on the road in the identified road kill hot spot area, with a male leopard killed by a truck six weeks later, 25 km away on the original road kill transect.
An elusive and rarely seen aardvark was also killed on the road in the hot spot area in July, as was a kudu, causing extensive damage to a vehicle, as well as injuring the occupants.
This presented the EWT with an important opportunity to implement the use of signage and roadside fencing to coax wildlife to cross the road through existing culverts, says Collinson.
This mitigation measure will be implemented in 2015 with support from De Beers in an attempt to reduce the number of road kill on this road.
There is often conflict between development and conservation objectives in South Africa, notes Collinson.
South Africa’s future economic development requires infrastructure and the construction of new transport routes is inevitable. It is now becoming widely accepted that roads affect many aspects of ecosystems.
“Roads and traffic are destructive in two ways to animal populations: directly, where roads impact on wildlife through mortality, and indirectly, by fragmenting a population’s habitat, with this threat only becoming apparent over a period of time,” she notes.
Therefore, roads pose a threat to the survival of not only individual animals but also populations, she adds.
The GMTFCA is rich in species diversity, which makes it a future top destination for wildlife enthusiasts.
Currently, of the mammals occurring in the area, six are listed as endangered and 12 as vulnerable.
Southern Africa is considered to have the highest reptile diversity in Africa and 25% of these reptiles occur in the GMTFCA.