Safer roads for wildlife is the message behind an awareness campaign launched in Tasmania today (January 18).
Developed through a partnership between the RACT, The Wilderness Society, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and Tasmanian Conservation Trust, five cartoon wildlife characters call on road users to be aware of some simple actions that can reduce roadkill. These are:
• Look out for road signs and roadkill – they indicate wildlife hotspots.
• Take extra care driving between dusk and dawn.
• Don’t throw food out of your car – it attracts animals.
• Never swerve to avoid animals – slow down instead.
• Roadkill attracts scavengers. If safe, move if off the road.
The messages will be distributed via social media, through tourist information centres, rental car agencies, tourism operators and to RACT members.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary Director Greg Irons said it was estimated that in Tasmania at least 500,000 native animals were hit by motor vehicles each year, making the state’s road network one of the deadliest for wildlife per capita anywhere in the world.
“The most common animals we notice killed are brush tail possums, pademelons and wallabies that might be crossing the road or feeding on the green roadside grass, but really any animal in Tasmania is at risk of a motor vehicle collision,” he said.
“But roadkill left on the road is also a problem for carnivorous animals such as quolls, wedge tailed eagles and Tasmanian devils that come to feed on other animals.”
Mr Irons said Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary established a statewide wildlife rescue service in 2010 to transport injured and orphaned animals to care.
“With more than 30,000 rescue calls to the service in the past seven years, the leading cause of injury to wildlife (almost 30 per cent of injuries) was being struck by a vehicle,” he said. “This far exceeded other known causes of injury such as becoming trapped in chimneys, fences and buildings, cat and dog attacks and more.”
RACT CEO Harvey Lennon said the threat that vehicles posed to wildlife – and vice versa – could be reduced by changing driver behaviour.
“Drivers can significantly reduce the risk of colliding with animals by following the five key messages of the campaign,” he said.
“It’s also important to be extra careful during winter. Studies have shown a rise in collisions between cars and wildlife during June, July and August as the peak commuting times coincide with nightfall.
“Developing an understanding of typical wildlife behaviour is also important as many animals will move suddenly and without warning into oncoming traffic.”
Mr Lennon said collisions with wildlife also posed a serious safety risk to vehicle occupants.
“A study by the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety in Queensland found that 5.5 per cent of all on-road serious casualties were caused by direct impact with an animal or swerving to avoid an animal,” he said.
Vica Bayley, spokesperson for The Wilderness Society, said changing driver behaviour to reduce roadkill was a win-win that would help protect Tasmania’s wildlife, increase road safety and improve everybody’s experience when they were out and about.
“While Tasmania is celebrated as a must-see nature-based destination, no one wants to see dead animals on our roads and this campaign highlights simple steps drivers can take to both protect themselves, and Tasmania’s unique wildlife,” he said.
“This campaign is a collaboration across Tasmanian community sectors and highlights the significance of road kill and driver safety as an issue.
“We hope it helps people understand the steps drivers can take to reduce roadkill are simple and effective and will keep them safe.”
The campaign partners acknowledge the support of the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in providing a venue to launch this initiative, and encourage the public to visit its Remarkable Tasmanian Devil exhibition and take note of the road kill component of the exhibition.