Have you ever driven on a highway while passing by a road sign that says “Cattle Crossing,” and wondered how they managed to convinced the cattle to stick to that specific portion of the highway? Surprising indeed; but unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening out there. Despite many attempts that civil engineers put in place in order to shape how wildlife interact with motorists, most animals get knocked over by vehicles. But if you’re an animal, we hope not, then, Brazil’s BR-262 might just be the most dangerous road for you to cross.
Related media: BR-262 Aquidauana – MS (Brazil)
Slow Down: Animal Crossing Ahead
In the late 1990s, Dr. Wagner Fisher, then a grad student, first noticed the deadly nature of BR-262 while working in Pantanal — an expanse of Brazilian wetlands about the size of Wisconsin. The road winds it’s way through the great green expanse, which links the cities of Campo Grande and Corumbá about 692 kilometers (430 miles) apart. According to Fisher, whenever he commuted the road to his office, he would often stop along the way to document animals that have been knocked down.
Dr. Fisher at first was not interested in making this known to the general public, but as time went by, the numbers rose, and the more it became inevitable to keep quiet. As of May 2018, the estimated tally of reptiles and birds were published in the online journal Check List (the mammal count is due to be released separately in the near future). Of course, the numbers are staggering. Between the years 1996 and 2000, 930 reptiles and birds were found dead on this relatively short stretch of highway, representing about 29 and 43 different species of reptiles and birds, respectively.
Bang! You Knocked A Llama
The recorded number of mammals are estimated to be extremely high — Dr Fisher recorded roughly 2,200 different species within the same decade, which includes vulnerable creatures like that of the giant anteater. These roadkills are ever getting worse. There’s been 2,200 mammals killed in the late ‘90s, but a 2018 study recorded 1,000 mammals that have been knocked down and killed on the BR-262 in 2017 alone. Dr. Fisher’s recordings was one of the pioneer works that targeted the killings of animals by traffic, but in times, it has inspired similar projects elsewhere.
For instance, in California, the most dangerous animal crossing road is the I-280, which has killed 386 creatures between the years 2015 and 2016. And also in the United Kingdom, the country’s highways killed approximately 1,200 creatures in 2017. It seems like the more work being done to curb down the kills, the more (apparent) it becomes to avoid these roadkills, considering the biodiversity of Pantanal, it makes the BR-262 the world’s most deadliest animal crossroad.
Animal Highway Checkpoints
In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Manuela González-Suárez from the University of Reading describes how big the problem is at hand. Counting all highways and freeways in Brazil, its estimated that roughly 8 million birds are killed each year.
“Out of these 8 million birds, maybe some of those are fairly common ones, where maybe this is not a problem. But we don’t know, exactly. Are we going to lose all birds in Brazil? Probably no. But it would be nice to know, what should we be worried about?” She said.
The Amazon rainforest makes Brazil the home of a staggering 20 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Despite the ecological abundance, there are several different threats of danger it might face. From poaching in the Amazon rainforest to chemical waste polluting the Amazon river to wildlife being killed on country’s highways, and even the suspicion that that number could be more, curbing down the rate at which animals die with roads signs like “Anteater Crossing” hasn’t been enough.
Here’s one solution: Fencing. This strategy is to build fences surrounding the highway, and leave openings for animals to cross. Civil engineers could provide safe guard rail bridges for animals to cross the road, which would encourage animals to take less risk in taking dangerous routes. This solution is already working in North America with the pronghorn antelope, and there’s no (apparent) reason why it wouldn’t work elsewhere. We hope if you’re an animal, you can now feel safe when crossing a road. Be careful!
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Fri, Mar 08, 2019.