I REFER to a recent incident in which an elephant was killed in an early morning crash with trailer at the 13th mile along Jalan Mersing–Kota Tinggi, Johor.
Initial investigations found that the incident happened when the driver of another car turned on its high beam headlights when he/she saw a herd of elephants crossing the road.
The action startled a female elephant which charged towards an on-coming trailer travelling from Terengganu to Singapore – and this resulted in the elephant’s death.
On Aug 25 last year, a pair of tapirs were killed when they were hit by a car while attempting to cross the Gebeng bypass road near Kuantan. On Aug 23, a 10-year-old elephant bull died after it was struck by a bus on along the Gerik-Jeli Highway. About two months before, an elephant calf was killed in a collision it in the same area.
These incidents reportedly happened despite the many signboards put up to warn motorists about elephants and other wildlife crossing highways in the area.
As I have repeatedly said before, wildlife and vehicles just don’t mix, and the construction of more new roads across wildlife habitats means that more animals will be hit by vehicles than ever before.
As one who is deeply interested in wildlife protection, I wish to strongly advocate to the authorities to take concrete and urgent action to tackle wildlife roadkill.
We must effect a change in human behaviour to help reduce roadkill with public education and awareness enhancing efforts. Road users should never provoke wild animals by honking or turning on high beams to avoid startling animals and provoking them to attack.
Suitable sites must be identified to enable more animal crossings to be built along roads that pass through animal habitats or migration routes. I believe Perhilitan (Department of Wildlife and National Parks) has statistics on wildlife roadkill that could help authorities construct animal crossings in suitable locations.
The authorities should also emulate solutions introduced in some countries, such as installing wildlife detectors that will trigger flashing signs when an animal is detected near the road. In South America, reflective stickers are placed on GPS collars on tapirs so that the animals are easier to see in the dark.
Tapirs and elephants are particularly at risk of becoming roadkill as they regularly cross the roads to look for food.
The authorities should also install speed bumps and speed cameras and introduce light-coloured roads in wildlife-rich areas to help reduce roadkill.
With the help of IT experts, the authorities could also develop mobile apps that work together with apps such as Waze and Google Maps to warn drivers of the presence of wildlife.
Drivers should be more cautious when driving along stretches that traverse forests. The animals may not know the risk but we human beings should be more considerate of their lives.
Human behavioural change is crucial to avoid collision with the animals as not all wildlife will use viaducts or special crossings. Like humans, the animals in the wild have the right of co-existence.
I also support the Sabah Government’s decision to review logging concessions in “critical” areas where dead pygmy elephants were discovered recently.
Although timber is one of the main sources of revenue for the state, it is important for them to examine the problem in depth and ensure that such incidents will not recur.
It was reported that the carcasses of six endangered Bornean pygmy elephants, aged between one and 37 years old, were discovered separately on the east coast of Sabah from April 6 to May 20.
The deaths have raised concerns over the well-being of the elephants, which number around 2,000 in the wild.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
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