PETALING JAYA: A dead tapir was the last thing Vicki Chew, 27, expected to see on the road to Kemaman.
Abandoned and alone, it had come to die by the East Coast roadside in February, presumably killed by a passing motorist.
“My boyfriend was driving along the highway when we spotted the tapir. He kept on driving, but I told him to go back.
“I couldn’t bear leaving it lying there just like that,” the Universiti Malaysia Terengganu student told The Star.
Getting out, she ran to take a closer look. It seemed untouched except for a wound near its spine.
Before continuing her journey, she called the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers (Mycat), who then called the authorities.
The tapir Chew found is one of possibly hundreds, if not thousands, of wild animals killed by vehicles while trying to cross roads here each year.
The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) said 1,924 wild animals were reported killed on the road from June 2006 to June last year.
“Most were mammals such as civets, wild boars, macaques, leopard cats and tapirs,” a spokesman said.
Roadkill, he said, were mainly found on highways close to forests and identified seven stretches where these occurred. These included Lipis-Gua Musang, Kuala Krai-Gua Musang, Kulai-Kota Tinggi.
The spokesman said many more deaths might have gone unreported.
To stop this, he said millions of ringgit had been spent to build warning signs and raise road platforms known as viaducts.
Though he did not specify the exact amount, it is understood that more than RM100mil had been spent on viaducts alone.
However, he said deaths continued because of wildlife habitats being destroyed, poor mitigation after highways were built and broken roadside fencing.
He said more roadkills would occur if official plans preserving forest areas were not followed, especially in areas which are within or nearby wildlife habitats.