Right of way to a bitter end

A tapir that was hit by a vehicle along Jalan Sedili - Mersing on April 6 this year.

JOHOR has lost more than 100 of its precious wildlife due to roadkill incidents since 2019.

This figure includes seven tapirs that have been killed since January.

In the latest incident, a 250kg male tapir was found dead after it was hit by a heavy vehicle along Jalan Sedili-Tenggaroh on April 6.

Two weeks prior to the incident, a female tapir, weighing about 300kg, was killed in a similar incident near Institut Latihan Perindustrian Mersing along Jalan Mersing-Jemaluang.

Johor Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) director Salman Saaban said 15 animals were killed in the first three months of this year as a result of road accidents.

“From 2019 to 2020,93 animals were reported dead after being hit by vehicles.

“Among the animals killed in accidents are elephants, monkeys, civet cats, tapirs, monitor lizards and hedgehogs, ” he noted.

Salman said the top three animals commonly killed by vehicles were civet cats, monitor lizards and wild boars.

“There had been instances where the driver or passenger in the vehicle involved in the accident was hurt as well.“We have received seven such reports since 2019, ” he said.

Two roads notorious for roadkill, according to Salman, are the Kota Tinggi-Sungai Rengit and Kota Tinggi-Mersing roads.

He pointed out that poor lighting on roads and a lack of awareness among drivers were some of the factors contributing to the animal casualties.

“Some of the roads are poorly lit, making it difficult for drivers to see the animals.

“On the other hand, some drivers also fail to observe the maximum speed limit in the area and do not pay attention to the warning signs put up by Perhilitan, ” he said.

He added that the accidents often happened at the animal’s natural or main crossing path.

On receiving reports of roadkill, Salman said officers from the nearest Perhilitan district office would be deployed to the scene to remove the carcass.

“We will remove the animal from the road and further investigations into the cause of the accident will be conducted at the scene.

“The morphological measurement of the dead animal is then taken along with some photos for record, ” he elaborated.

A study will then be conducted to decide on suitable mitigation action that can be taken to avoid future incidents.

“This includes providing more warning road signs, speed breakers or discussing with the relevant departments on the need to instal more streetlights, ” said Salman.

He urged the public to be extra careful when driving in areas near animal crossings and to always adhere to the speed limit there.

“Motorists should also heed the road signs the department has put up in these areas.

“If they see wild animals, like tapir, elephant or wild boar crossing the road, they should give way to the wildlife, ” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Jeffry Wong, 37, who has been rescuing animals for more than 20 years, said roadkill had greatly reduced since the movement control order was imposed in March last year.

“Previously, I would receive reports on an average of five cases a month, with most of these incidents taking place in Kota Tinggi.

“However, since March last year, such incidents have been rare.

“I received only two or three such cases in the past year and I believe it is most likely due to the lack of vehicles on the road during the MCO period, ” he noted.

He said in most cases, the animals could not be rescued due to the severity of their injuries.

But in instances where the animals could be saved, they would be taken to a veterinarian to be treated.

“After the animals are treated, my team and I will release them into their natural habitat, in forests around Kota Tinggi, ” said Wong.

He cited monkeys and civet cats among animals he had rescued, apart from stray cats and dogs that had been accidentally hit by vehicles.

He said human development around the wildlife’s natural habitat was the main contributing factor to roadkill.

Apart from rescuing animals that were in road accidents, he had also attended to animals like snakes and eagles that had been found injured due to other reasons, including from being held captive.

“I get calls from people when they come across such cases, ” he said.

In 2019, Wong was awarded the Iskandar Malaysia Social Hero Awards (Imsha) in the animals and wildlife category, in recognition of his efforts over the years.

“I hope to rescue more wild animals and give them a better chance of surviving in their own habitat, ” he said.

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