We being urged to slow down, stop the car and take a photo of any dead animals we see on the road or by the side of the road, as part of a citizen science project documenting roadkill during the month of October.
Roadkill impacts the Australian environment by wiping out more than four million mammals and six million birds, reptiles and other creatures a year. It can contribute to species such as koalas, wedge-tailed eagles and Tasmanian devils becoming extinct in the wild.
“Vehicles are the new predator on the block,” said Bruce Englefield, a PhD student and researcher in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. “Animals have no innate survival behaviour to protect themselves. Vehicles give little warning, travel at a speed unknown in any other predator and kill indiscriminately, a recipe for extinction.”
The Roadkill Reporter app, developed by Mr Englefield, is designed to take a photograph of roadkill anywhere in Australia with a GPS-time-and-date-stamp. Users can then upload the image to a website. This will enable a reliable estimate of yearly Australian roadkill to be calculated and roadkill hotspots to be identified. The free app is available now for iPhone and Android phones.
“I got interested in roadkill when I went out one night to rescue a wombat joey that a tourist had found and, even though I was driving carefully, I hit and road-killed a possum on the way home,” said Mr Englefield, who is based in Tasmania. “Then when I started my research on roadkill rescue and how this affects the wildlife carers, I found there were no national data on roadkill numbers or even wildlife carers.
“By getting people involved it will highlight just how serious a problem roadkill is not only for humans and the animals, but also for the environment and conservation,” Mr Englefield said.
Bruce Englefield, aged 76, is a former Tasmanian of the Year (2008), Australian of the Year Tasmania (2010) and Australian Tourism Small Business Champion (2010). He is also the founder and former CEO of the Devil Island Project Inc, a conservation project for Tasmanian devils. After a career in television, he returned to university at the age of 51, to obtain a Master of Science in animal behavior and training. He is now a PhD student and researcher at the University of Sydney.
“I am 76 years old and have always had a wonderment of nature, which coupled with an enquiring mind, drives me to try to share this enthusiasm with others through learning and then passing on knowledge.”