An article on wildlife friendly highways.
On 2 January, the news of an adult tigress struck by a vehicle in Mahendra Highway made the rounds on social media. The photo of the striped big cat sprawled on the asphalt in a pool of blood touched many.
But there was also anger. The roadkill followed the killing by another tiger of a middle-aged woman on a motorcycle with her son in the same stretch of highway.
In December 2016, a speeding bus killed another tiger, and another in January 2019 left a tiger severely injured, the animal’s condition did not improve despite treatment and it died 13 months later.
These examples of harrowing road kill and human-animal conflict are on the rise in Nepal, thanks to new infrastructure including roads, irrigation canals, transmission lines and even railways crisscrossing nature reserves and national parks.
Case in point is the planned upgradation of the existing two-lane standard highway along the Pathlaiya- Hetauda, Hetauda-Narayanghat and Narayanghat-Butwal sections of Mahendra Highway, all of which will slice across protected areas including the Parsa National Park, Barandabhar Corridor and the buffer zone of Chitwan National Park.
The phenomenon even has an acronym, Vehicular Wildlife Collisions (VWC), and these are only bound to rise. Of the unnatural wildlife fatalities in Nepal in the last four years, with roadkill accounting for nearly half of all deaths. At least 29 deer, 24 wild boars and 22 monkeys were identified as roadkill just in 2019.
And despite reduced vehicular flow during the Covid-19 lockdown, there were 108 wildlife deaths in 2020 across highways that crisscross natural habitat and jungle corridors, and these do not include fatalities outside parks, which means many more deaths beyond protected areas go unrecorded.