Fatal road kills are avoidable sacrifices that wildlife makes
(A rusty spotted cat road kill)
About 12 years ago, I had done a 2,000-kilometre motorbike expedition from Mumbai to my desert village in Northern Rajasthan -- Shekhawati. My newly found passion was to look for snakes on roadsides, as it was one of the standard methodology used by my Mumbai snake enthusiast friends to sight snakes.
They would just drive their bike in forested areas and observe snakes crossing roads. Hence, I planned for a mega road survey for snake sighting in such habitats. Unfortunately, I found only one snake, that too, at the end of my trip, close to my native town, which was also the end point of my ride. But it was a rare snake; a Red spotted royal snake. Also, the picture of that snake has been included by Rom Whitekar, in his famous snake field guide book. The snake was my first documentation, but this was not the season for snake sighting.
However, on road trips till date, I have seen many animals been killed due to road accidents. The overall data collection is intimidating and includes even big animals like sloth bears, leopards, other wild cats, hyena, jackals in addition to small creatures such as snakes, monitor lizards and uncountable frogs and toads.
(A road kill of striped hyena)
(An Indian Jackal road kill)
Can we reduce this number or do we have to accept this reality? Some specialist suggested few ways to minimise the damage to our endangered wildlife caused due to road accidents. They suggest three main things. First, if the road is en-route though any wildlife areas like a national park, sanctuary or similar areas, we should avoid driving through them at nights, as it is the main time for movement of the animals. This solution is only effective when the area is having low traffic; otherwise local community agitation cannot allow such restrictions.
(A Jungle Cat road kill)
Secondly, some experts suggest that small creatures are more commonly killed on the roads while they are crossing it. So if the underpasses and upper passes can be created in such areas, we can reduce these killings. Underpasses can be a culvert-like structure or pipes through the road. But many times, I have seen that animals are not just crossing roads, but they also come there for other activities, such as warming in the black dry surface of the road that warms up because of sunlight. Sometimes, small mammals come there for feeding on fallen grains from trucks, or to eat insects attracted by vehicle lights. Many times, small carnivores come there to get better view to catch prey. Therefore, these animals are highly prone to accidents.
(Long eared Hedgehog)
Another thing, which is recently suggested, is keeping space while widening the road. Not keeping space on both sides of the road leads to wildlife bumping from forest, straight into the speedy road and being killed. If space can be created on both the sides, animals would get alerted from the speedy vehicles and also the vehicle driver can slow down in time. Most of the time, this space is not left due to trees on both the sides, but if they remove bushy under-covers, the area could be more visible for wild animals and they would not bump directly on moving vehicle.
(Russles viper road kill in Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve)
We do know that roads and development are obvious needs for humans, but there are certain ways to co-exist with wildlife. Snakes are mostly active in monsoon and similarly, there are certain seasons when animal movement is most active and we should be aware of those.
(A road kill of Small Indian Civet)
If we become slightly aware about those important seasons and cautious areas, our wildlife can be saved much more easily from road accidents.