Tales from Rimba 2: Why did the chicken cross the road?

Some humourous answers here. Image taken from freduard88.wordpress.com

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.

A Masked palm civet (Paguma larvata)? Credits to Ivan Kwan for ID.

[Update: 3 Jul] Stan Lhota, a Czech primatologist who is with us, clarified that it probably isn’t a macaque but some langur. Probably been there for ages, all we could see was fur.

Painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus). This poor guy was still writhing before it finally died :/ It was found along a different highway though.

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.

Proposed Ecolink. Image taken from iyb2010singapore.blogspot.com

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.

View from the fieldhouse.

The project

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.

The highway viaduct.

The highway.

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.

Gotta bash through ferns that are taller than me to get to the camera traps.

The Orang Aslis breaking the trail with their parangs. They’re damn skillful!

Ants like to make homes out of the camera traps.

Gotta clear the grass so that we don’t get thousands of shots of gently swaying grass.

Reuben testing the camera trap to ensure it’s of the right height

One of the Orang Asli field assistants helping to secure the camera firmly to the tree. On top of the secure cable, there’s also a security code before you can unlock the camera, so no point stealing them!

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?

One of the viaducts in Gerik.

Gotta scramble down slopes to get to the camera traps.

Meryl Theng (a.k.a. Ottergirl) testing the camera trap.

So far havent’ personally seen much mammal wildlife, just this herd of domestic cattle. And one bull elephant that disappeared too quickly to photograph, near an Orang Asli village!

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.

Chicken crossed the road cos it had to; there was no longer forest cover 😦

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.

[Updated: 30 June] Also, check out Ivan Kwan’s Monday Morgue post on roadkills!

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About Jocelyne Sze

I'm a Nature-lover, aspiring conservationist, and wannabe traveller in search of outdoor adventure.
This entry was posted in Fact, Opinion, Outdoor activities and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tales from Rimba 2: Why did the chicken cross the road?

  1. Ivan Kwan says:

    The civet roadkill is probably a masked palm civet (Paguma larvata).

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