Roads are integral to the continued development and prosperity of South Africa’s economy. However, roads also have the potential to destroy and degrade habitat, as well as fragment wildlife populations. Traffic, particularly when reckless driving is involved, can have a direct negative impact on wildlife, with many species at risk from wildlife-vehicle-collisions, often resulting in an animal’s death, or ‘roadkill’.
A relatively large body of international literature is available on mitigation measures to reduce conflict between road infrastructure and wildlife. However, few of these techniques have been tested for applicability to the species and situations found in South Africa, despite the country’s legislative framework that necessitates environmental impact assessments for development. This is in part due to a lack of understanding of the impacts of road development on wildlife.
Work conducted since 2010 by the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife and Roads Project (EWT-WRP) has accelerated a greater understanding of the impact of road infrastructure on wildlife and provided potential solutions to minimise wildlife road mortality, resulting in the emerging scientific discipline of Road Ecology.
The goal of road ecology is to provide planners with scientific advice on how to minimise or mitigate negative environmental impacts of transportation. Road Ecology in South Africa is a rapidly emerging field of research for which the EWT is spearheading pioneering initiatives, and being recognised as being at the forefront of this area of research. The EWT-WRP is the only large-scale initiative in the country that tackles the issue of wildlife deaths on our roads head on.