The answer (or perhaps, non-answer) suddenly struck me as I was traveling along the inter-state highway from Terengganu to Perak, and passed by 2 roadkills.
I doubt the chicken had a death wish. Probably, the chicken (perhaps Red Jungle Fowl) didn’t use to have to cross roads, but we decided to put a road right through the forest, so now they have to. Along with all the other forest animals.
We humans have been putting roads through forests for many years and for many reasons. And it is causing major deforestation (not directly).
See the highways cutting through forests?
And it’s also causing lots of roadkill, as animals now have to navigate road crossing when they previously never had to.
It would be too easy to simply say, stop building roads! But we know that can never (will probably never?) happen. All we can do is to mitigate the effects, not all, only some. Things like logging & plantations are probably harder to tackle, involving huge corporations, lots of money, greed and power. Not to say we cannot tackle them, just harder. But things like roadkills & poaching are perhaps, a little easier? Poaching is still a serious problem, but anyway, that’s for the next post.
For something like roadkills, a result of animals trying to get from one part of the forest to another that is separated by a road/highway, one “solution” that is often proposed and implemented is to have wildlife corridors. Stretches of forest greenery that either goes over or under the road, allowing animals to travel without having to face the dangers of the road.
In Singapore, we’re going to have the Ecolink by 2013 that connects Central Catchment Nature Reserve to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, which is currently separated by the Bukit Timah Expressway.
In Malaysia, they have many highways that cut through forests. Reuben’s project is on the effectiveness of highway viaducts as wildlife crossing structures. There are currently 2 study sites, one in Kenyir, Terengganu, and the other in Gerik, Perak.
I was in Kenyir the past week, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful place, where I woke up to the calls of wild gibbons and plenty of birds.
Essentially, Reuben’s trying to find out if the animals (mainly fairly large non-arboreal mammals) are using the viaducts to get to the other side, or are they just crossing the highway directly.
Most of the work in Kenyir is already completed. From setting camera traps in the forest, he’s found 39 mammal species in an area that is about 1% the size of Taman Negara (some photos here), with some 14 species that utilise the viaduct. Of course, we don’t know if the animals are actually crossing under the viaduct, or just doing a U-turn, but it’s a start.
When I went last week, I helped to check the camera traps (i.e. grab the photos!) that have been set on trails leading to either the highway, or the viaduct, to see if more animals are going towards the highway or viaduct. We also set camera traps on certain columns of the viaducts that have recorded the most mammal crossing, to continue monitoring the viaduct usage.
Here in Gerik, the work’s only just started. The week before, I was helping to check the camera traps under the viaducts. The Bintang Hijau Forest Reserve here in Gerik is more degraded than the Kenyir forests, having been selectively logged 30 years ago. The word Reserve here means a little different from Singapore. To me, I thought a Reserve meant it was protected, that there could be no human interference/disturbance, legally. Only to realise that Forest Reserve here meant that it was reserved for logging (or for other purposes). Selectively logged (meaning only certain trees that’s been marked out by the Forestry department can be felled) supposedly, but who’s monitoring?
Camera traps are mighty useful tools, allowing field biologists to find out what animals are still prowling the area without actually having to track them, since most animals would scuttle when they sense human presence. More of this in another post.
Shall end off before this post becomes #TLDR (Too Long; Didn’t Read). Are wildlife corridors really effective? Well I guess we’ll see, in time. I do wish though, that we didn’t have to subject animals to such injustice in the first place. But unfortunately, in this anthropocentric world, humans reign and animals are deemed less important Hopefully this will change in the future.
There’s also been a similar study related to the Ecolink and small mammals in Singapore by Amanda Tan. An account by Gladys Chua (Amanda’s volunteer for a stint) here.