Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on earth. The country is home to around half a million animal and plant species. Aside from that, it is also home to the highest density of roads in Central America with a length of more than 27,500 miles (44,316 kilometers). Often these highways and roads fragment natural habitats, making them a major risk to wildlife.
Sadly, at least 461 wildcats have died on Costa Rica’s roads in the past decade.
Panthera’s Wild Cats Friendly Road Project in Costa Rica is an initiative coordinated by wildlife researcher Daniela Araya-Gamboa that works to reduce road deaths across the country.
Araya-Gamboa wants to save the wildcat’s life by reducing the threats to its survival. Together with her team, she tries to track down the areas where wildlife cannot navigate the roads. This is done by the team walking the freeways early in the morning and late at night in safety gear and reflective vests.
“We measure the road with the car in places where the roadway reaches a speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour. When the roads are dangerous, we have road cops watching over us, mostly at night, as we also do surveillance in the evenings,” Araya-Gamboa told Treehugger.
“When we see injured or dead wildlife, we either help them safely cross roads or remove the wildlife body from the road. Finding wildlife that is still alive and suffering is extremely difficult.”
So what happens when the team encounters an animal? Well, first they write down all the details such as what species of animal it is, the GPS location, where the animal was found, what type of land use is next to the road, and they also take photos of the scene. After that, the Araya-Gamboa team will share its findings so that mitigation actions can be taken in the areas that pose a threat to wildlife. Measures can include retrofitting culverts, creating road underpasses, or even establishing tree crossings for wildlife.
“We can’t keep counting the dead; Action must be taken to resolve this issue. That is the aim of this project: conservation measures,” explained Araya-Gamboa.
“Across the country, we still have an urgent need to ensure the implementation of wildlife conservation measures on existing roads, including rural roads bordering protected areas,” added Araya-Gamboa. “To date, the country lacks official and specific legislation mandating the implementation of environmental measures on existing wildlife roads.”
Image: MyTravelCurator/shutterstock.com via Optimist Edge