Every year, a staggering number of animals are run over by cars. In the United States alone, more than a million animals become roadkill every day! Roadkill is an increasingly serious problem in the world today as people build more and more roads across the planet. Although these help people get from one place to another more easily, they often cut through natural habitats that are home to many animals, such as forests, mountains, and grasslands. When this happens, animals unwittingly wander onto these roads, putting their lives at risk. Fortunately, scientists have come up with a way to keep animals off our roads – wildlife crossing.
Wildlife crossing refers to bridges or tunnels that allow animals to cross highways or roads safely. The first wildlife crossing was built in France in the 1950s. Now, they are everywhere in the world, from Australia to India, from Canada to the US.
There are different types of crossings to cater to the different animals. In the US, for example, small rope bridges have been built to help squirrels cross roads safely. In Kenya, there are big tunnels that help elephants pass beneath highways.
Wildlife crossings are usually covered in trees and plants to make them look like a natural part of the habitat. That way, animals are more likely to use them. They also work best together with fencing. The fences, placed on the sides of the highway, help to guide animals towards the crossing.
Before building a wildlife crossing, scientists may observe a road for several months to find out where animals usually cross and thus figure out the best place to build one.
Wildlife crossings save many animal lives every year. Lots of animals use them, from crabs to tortoises, from elephants to wolves. They allow animals to get across roads safely to find food and water. One of the most successful examples of wildlife crossing is in the Banff National Park in Canada. Since the network of crossings was completed in 2014, thousands of animals like deers and bears have been using them. Scientists say that these bridges and tunnels have helped to reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle crashes in the area by 80%!
Wildlife crossings also save money in the long run. Although they can be expensive to build, the costs related to animal-car crashes are higher. In the United States, these accidents cost as much as $8 billion every year for things like car repairs and medical bills!
However, as helpful as wildlife crossings are, they are not a magic solution. They can only fix a small part of the problem. It is important to recognise that roads can have big repercussions on wildlife habitats and animal lives. Where the environmental cost is too high, we should not build roads.