Being the busiest motor highway in Bhutan, the Thimphu- Phuntsholing highway sees an increasing number of wildlife being fatally run over by vehicles.
The road kill happens because of increasing number of vehicles plying along the road that passes through the wilderness that constitutes habitats of different species of wildlife. It does not help that wild animals are now depending on the food thrown to them by the commuters.
According to the Chief of Wildlife Conservation Division (WDC), Sonam Wangchuk, wild animals are getting killed because they have started to depend on the food given by the travelers. “People do not comply with the signboards positioned in different locations stating not to feed animals.”
He added that because the animals are getting food easily, they wait on the road everyday for the food. “Such trend has significantly changed the behavior of the wild animals,” Sonam Wangchuk said.
He also said that WDC conducted awareness programs on the disadvantages of feeding animals since people have the religious sentiment over feeding the wild animals. However, he said that people still feed them, and as a result, the animals get killed while trying to get to the food.
The current rate of wildlife road mortality threatens sustainability of biodiversity, and hence the Chief of WCD said that people should align themselves to the initiatives taken by WCD, in protecting animals from getting killed.
At least two to three different species, largely monkeys, are reported to be found dead on the road every day. And often, some rare species, like leopard cat and marble cat, are reported to have been killed on the road.
Recently, commuters saw an adult monkey dead on the highway in Chukha last week. The animal had sustained a major injury on its lower abdominal side of the body and died.
Based on the size of the wheel tracks left behind at the accident spot, forest officials believe that the animal might have been killed by a truck.
“If the culprit is caught, such act is punishable under the forest and nature conservation rules. As much as they care for human life, they should care for the wildlife,” Sonam Wangchuk said.
He said that giving awareness and educating people behind the wheel is one of the solutions. “It is not possible to station forest officials on the road to monitor such thing,” he said.
Forestry officials also shared that drivers are now becoming careless when they speed their vehicles on the better and wider asphalt covered roads, and hence, kill more wildlife. This is the major threat to wildlife in developed countries, and is increasingly becoming a trend in Bhutan too.
Hence, WCD is working in close collaboration with enforcement agencies, such as Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) and traffic police to control the traffic.
However, WDC said people must act individually to decrease avoidable losses on the road by participating in practices to enhance mindfulness, reducing speed at wildlife corridor, and improving knowledge of local wildlife and nocturnal movement pattern of the wild animals.
Another solution includes removing a carcass of a road kill to prevent injury or death to opportunistic species who try to feed on it, and alerting drivers on the presence of a road kill.