NATIONAL

Wildlife experts focus on roadkill on forest routes

Small but significant:Chances of small animals getting run over on forest routes are high, but such roadkill often goes unrecorded as focus has been on the conservation of big animals.

Small but significant:Chances of small animals getting run over on forest routes are high, but such roadkill often goes unrecorded as focus has been on the conservation of big animals.  

Wildlife biologists are looking into incidents of animals being run over on forest routes and its impacts on wildlife in Kerala.

The study, pioneered by P.S. Easa of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, will focus on the road between forest check-posts at Vazhachal and Malakapara and the stretch between the check-posts of Chinnar and Meladi. A good number of wild animals, including hare, amphibians, and reptiles, are killed by vehicles every year. However, these roadkill go unrecorded as focus has always been on large animals, said Mr. Easa.

The Vazhachal-Malakapara road stretch, the study area, is part of the Chalakudi-Pollachi road passing through Valparai of Anamalai Tiger Reserve. The 50-km-long stretch passes through moist deciduous and evergreen forests, majority of which fall under the buffer zone of Parambikulam Tiger Reserve. There is a short stretch of coffee plantations near to Malakapara. There is frequent vehicular traffic during day time and night traffic is regulated to some extent. The road stretch between Chinnar and Meladi, which connects Udumalpet of Tamil Nadu and Munnar of Kerala, is used by a large number of vehicles. The 16-km-long road passes mostly through the dry deciduous patches of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary.

The ecological impacts of fragmentation caused by roads, especially avoidance of the habitats by animals in the stretches, too would be looked into. The study will record the roadkill along the selected highways and the probable causative factors such as changes in the road side vegetation, population and biology of the species, vehicular traffic and speed, and rainfall, he said. The habitat fragmentation due to transport infrastructure had resulted in loss of wildlife habitats and habitat suitability for organisms. The isolation of wildlife populations due to fragmentation had also been reported, he said.

At times, birds too were killed in accidents. Some of the maimed monkeys found on roadsides too could be victims of accidents, Mr. Easa said. V. Gopinath, Chief Wildlife Warden, Kerala, said that no data on roadkills of wild animals was available in the State. Though isolated incidents of animals being run over had been reported from the State, it had not assumed a worrisome proportion in Kerala. There were no restrictions on night travel along the Kerala routes, he said.

The wildlife biologists plan to cover the road stretches in motorcycles during day and night time at random for observations. Data will be collected during pre and post monsoon and summer seasons. On sighting roadkill, the roadside habitat and state of the carcass will be recorded and photographed separately. The location of the roadkill will be recorded using GPS and the habitats assessed.

An inventory of vertebrates found on the road sides will be prepared. Researchers will be looking for indirect signs of mammals. Amphibians and reptiles too will be counted. The data would be used as indices for abundance of these groups of animals, he said.

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