Brazilian ecologists launch app to reduce roadkill
April 13, 2014
In Brazil alone, officials estimate that some 475 million animals die from being struck on the nation's roads. That's around 15 animals per second, totaling more than twice the country’s human population. The Centro Brasileiro de Estudos em Ecologia de Estradas (CBEE) is working to reduce those grim statistics with the help of an app called Urubu (vulture in Portuguese), which uses the power of crowd-sourcing to identify roadkill hotspots across the country.
Created in 2011, CBEE monitors roadkill and creates guidelines to improve the complicated relationship between highways and wildlife. To help it with its mission, CBEE designed Urubu to allow anyone with a smartphone and internet connection to photograph animals that have been hit by cars and send the images to be validated by a team of experts.
These experts will then classify the species of the roadkill (amphibian, reptilian, mammal, bird or indeterminate), and the data added to a database called BAFS, which will help the experts map out the highest risk areas and most affected species. The ultimate goal is to devise a plan for official environmental agencies to make adaptations to the country’s highways based on data collected in the field.
The project is led by CBEE director Alex Bager, who’s been researching road ecology since 1995 and also organizes the national congress of road ecology. Bager believes the number of animals being killed on the roads is much higher than current estimates and that the app may help produce a more accurate figure.
The great majority (390 million) comprises small animals, such as frogs and snakes, which play an important role in the food chain. As well as being a food source for larger animals, they also play a crucial role in pest control. Other 60 million are medium-sized animals, such as hares and skunks. Large animals, such as anteaters, wild dogs and big cats, account for five to 10 million animals.
"Urubu will allow us to collect reliable information about the whole of Brazil in real time so that governmental agencies, managers, companies and researchers can understand the impact of roadkill in terms of time and place," Bager tells Gizmag.
Bager started working with road ecology in 1995 as a researcher at the ESEC Taim reserve in Rio Grande do Sul State. It is a fairly recent discipline and the term road ecology was coined in the 1980s by Harvard ecology professor Richard Forman, Bager adds. He says its importance has grown exponentially in Brazil due to its effects on the social and economic process of the country, and it will be increasingly present in discussions on planning, management and construction of highways and railways.
In practical terms, there are local solutions that can be implemented, such as tunnels, screens and speed reduction devices, while on a national level the group hopes to influence national policies, how research is financed, research fields and, ultimately, justify changes in routes.
The app was presented at Brazil Road Expo last week and will be made available through the source link below.