On the road for animal safety
SAWE (Study and Awareness of Wildlife and Environment), a non-government organisation is conducting a survey to record mortality rates of animals on highways in Margao and Ponda, finds NT BUZZ
CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ
Every year, hundreds of people are killed as a result of road rage. Similarly and just as devastating, what often goes unnoticed is the number of animals who also lose their lives on the roads. In an effort to document this issue and take measures to correct the situation the Wildlife Conservation Trust began an initiative titled Roadkills.in to collect data on mortality of animals on roads or railway lines in India.
In Goa, the NGO SAWE (Study and Awareness of Wildlife and Environment) has been instrumental in conducting this study over the last few years. This year the organisation is expanding its reach by involving more people and attempting to cover more highways.
“Right now we have around 14 volunteers, as part of this project, who are documenting the roadkill for the day on a particular road with a special app,” says social activist and snake rescuer, Charan Desai who runs SAWE along with a few other members. When volunteers take a picture of the roadkill, it records the time and date of the photo, and the exact GPS location and address as proof. “We have observed that there is more than one roadkill everyday. Considering that this data is of 6 to 7 roads (Margao and Ponda), the daily number of roadkill in the whole of area will be much more,” he says. And with urbanisation here to stay, the number will only increase, believes Charan.
While they are covering only the highways of Margao and Ponda, they hope to cover more ground provided they get more volunteers. “After we collect this data, at the end of the year we will submit it to the concerned authorities in the government. Once they have concrete information on the location with the most roadkill, etc, they can take measures to tackle this by perhaps putting up signboards or barricades in these areas,” says Desai.
Gayatri Bakhale who runs the project with Shruti Kawlekar points out that in some developed countries they have organised transport development keeping these animals in mind. “They have made canals and tunnels to help animals cross over,” she says and adds “Also, if a road is passing through a wildlife sanctuary or a national park, signs should be put up so that people are alert. After all, animals are important. Without them our existence will be at stake. Thus, side by side with urbanisation we must consider them.”
We lose a large number of animals and birds as roadkill every year. “We have seen roadkill like domesticated animals like cows, cats, and dogs and also wild animals like crocodiles, snakes, civet cats not to forget innumerable birds. In fact we see so many rare animals. The worst part is that the injured is just left there to die and if the animal is dead it is run over by other vehicles,” says Kawlekar.
Desai adds that once people are on the alert for animals crossing the road, they also tend to drive more cautiously thus reducing the possibility of road accidents in general. “The government regularly has road safety weeks, etc. I believe that this aspect of road safety should also be incorporated in the awareness drives,” he says.
Recording this data however has its own issues and becomes a problem especially in areas where there is no range, says Desai. “There are no good apps to record this data. However some organisations have offered to help make a customised app for us if this project is successful,” he says.
And while there are quite a few people, especially college students who have shown an interest in the project, Bakhale states that coming forward and contributing to this will require more consistency from volunteers.