Sweden has announced this week that it will be building a series of animal bridges in order to preserve their species and help wildlife in general.
With the growing urbanization, wildlife has been cornered so much that they are forced to visit the human world and that almost always ends up in them losing their lives. Every year in April Sweden’s main highway comes to a periodic standstill as a result of hundreds of reindeer overseen by indigenous Sami herders shuffle across the asphalt on the E4 as they begin their journey west to the mountains after a winter.
However, as the roads grow busier, these highways become more dangerous during these times especially if authorities do not arrive in time to close the road. There have been instances when drivers try to overtake the reindeer as they cross – spooking the animals and causing long traffic jams as their Sami owners battle to regain control.
Per Sandström, a landscape ecologist at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences explained,
“During difficult climate conditions, these lichen lands can be extra important for the reindeer. The animals that will really benefit from this system are long-ranging mammals that are really not meant to survive in these small, isolated pockets.”
Hence, to prevent the prevailing inconvenience for humans and animals both, this week, Swedish authorities announced they would build up to a dozen “renoducts” to aid the crossings and allow reindeer herds to reach grazing more easily.
The authorities believe that these crossings will allow herders to find fresh grazing lands and alleviate traffic jams. It will also help moose and lynx to move around the landscape. The country’s 4,500 Sami herders and 250,000 reindeer have been hit hard by the climate crisis.
The said renoducts are part of a growing number of wildlife bridges and underpasses around the world that aim to connect fractured habitats.
Many countries have already employed these methods. On the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico, underpasses have been used to shield jaguars from traffic. Natural canopy bridges in the Peruvian Amazon have helped porcupines, monkeys, and kinkajous pass over natural gas pipelines. On Christmas Island, bridges have been built over roads to allow millions of red crabs to pass from the forest to the beaches on their annual migration.
Around the globe, these wildlife bridges have helped avert some of the billions of animal deaths that happen on the roads every year around the world and counteract unintended consequences of human infrastructure.
In southern California, there have been signs of inbreeding among lions in the Santa Monica Mountains because busy freeways around Los Angeles have isolated populations with low genetic diversity. To save these lions from extinction an $87m (£63m) wildlife bridge is planned over the 101 highway north of LA, which would be the largest in the world.
Mark Benson, a member of the human-wildlife coexistence team for Lake Louise, Yoho, and Kootenay at Parks Canada, says,
“When habitat is isolated, we can have an impact on individual animals where they might not be able to find water or food. We can also have an impact on the genetic diversity of populations. We can go all the way back to 1983. There was an underpass that was put in place as part of twinning improvements [widening the highway] in the park. The first overpasses were put in place in 1996 and the twinning of the highway was completed in 2016. It’s very effective in terms of allowing wildlife to move across the landscape.”
Hopefully, looking at this, more countries will follow.
Article and Image source: Guardian