Protecting Our Precious Wildlife
Driving Tasmania’s roads it would be easy to believe that roadkill was a
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary established Tasmania’s first 24 hour wildlife rescue
in 2009 to respond to the number of animals being injured and orphaned on our
This Girl went looking for some answers on why so many of Tasmania’s wildlife
can be found dead on our roads. Here’s what Bonorong Director, Greg Irons, had
|Lochie the Lucky Sugar Glider, image courtesy of Bonorong|
There seems to be a lot of road kill on Tasmanian roads. Am I being too
sensitive? How does this compare nationally? Should we be worried?
It is estimated that up to half a million native animals are killed by
cars each year in Tasmania, making our roads deadlier for wildlife, per capita,
than anywhere else in the world. This means that there is a constant stream of
injured and orphaned animals that need transport to veterinarians,
rehabilitation centres, or qualified orphan carers.
Vehicles don’t discriminate between species, so all wildlife from
wallabies, wombats and possums to Tasmanian devils and Wedge-tailed eagles are
at risk. For the most part, these animals are brush tail possums, pademelons
and wallabies that might be crossing the road or feeding on the abundant green
roadside grass. However, road traffic is also a particular problem for
carnivorous animals such as quolls, wedge tailed eagles and Tasmanian devils
that come to the roads to feed on other animals that have been killed there.
These three species in particular are facing other challenges from disease,
habitat loss, and competition from feral cats so the added pressure from car
strike can have a disproportionate impact on their populations. For instance,
it is thought that around 3 000 Tasmanian devils are killed by cars each
year. Combined with the massive impact that the Devil Facial Tumour Disease has
had on the species, the devils are facing real threats to their survival.
|Tasmanian Devil, image courtesy of Bonorong |
Scary fact - 3,400 native animals are killed every day on Australian roads or 1.24
million animals per year.
Is there a certain mentality amongst Tasmanian drivers we need to
We live in a place full of animals. If an animal is exotic or rare we
are all a little more careful and protective of it but if we see them every day
we become normalised. But even the most common animals have a role to play in
How do you respond to critics that say there are too many native
animals/no normal predators without the Tasmanian Tiger, so roadkill helps
There are higher numbers of some species than there was in the past,
largely thanks to the conversion of forests to grasslands. However, cars are
not selective and will hurt any animal in their path including endangered
species. That means roadkill only magnifies the loss of the Tasmanian tiger as
our apex predator.
Furthermore, car strike is a slow, painful, inhumane way to die and if
programs are needed to manage population numbers they would be best carefully
managed and not left to pot luck.
|Image courtesy of Bonorong|
What role does Bonorong play with native animal rescue?
The Bonorong Wildlife Rescue Program currently involves over 1 000
community volunteers across the state prepared to capture and transport animals
in need to carers, veterinarians or wildlife sanctuaries. Volunteer training is
a time intensive program but one that has seen enormous results, with
approximately 20 000 rescue calls received since the program began. This
means more injured and orphaned animals are reaching care with the possibility
What can we do to avoid killing native animals?
Slow down between dusk and dawn
Studies have shown that fewer animals are killed when speeds are lower. As
many of our native species are nocturnal (mainly active at night) or
crepuscular (mainly active at dawn and dusk) they are often found near roads
when it is the most difficult to see them. By slowing down at night, drivers
are able to see animals earlier and have time to avoid hitting them.
|Baby Bettong Fry, image courtesy of Bonorong|
Tasmania is home to many species of marsupial (including possums,
wombats, and Tasmanian devils) who keep their joeys safe inside a pouch. When
marsupials are killed by cars, these joeys are often uninjured and able to be
hand raised to adulthood. If drivers find a marsupial on the road, the pouch
should be checked for joeys. If a joey is found, the 24-hour Bonorong Wildlife
Rescue Program can be called on 0447 264 625 (0447 ANIMAL) for
Remove road kill from the road
Scavengers such as Tasmanian devils are attracted to the roads by the
availability of food. To prevent these animals from being hit by cars
themselves, road kill should be moved several metres off the road if it is safe
for the driver to do so.
|Thumper the wombat, image courtesy of Bonorong|
Our roads are not the only danger to native animals. According to the
Australian Wildlife Conservancy every cat allowed to roam outside kills
approximately five native animals each night. With one in four households
owning a pet cat, the pressure on wildlife is immense. Domestic cats act on
instinct and continue to hunt even after being fed. Cats are also a prime
carrier of the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, a fatal condition that leads
to irreversible central nervous system damage in a wide array of native animals
such as wallabies and pademelons.
Walk through the back yard before mowing and check for hidden animals. Many
native animals, like blue-tongue lizards, like to hide in long grass or next to
fences. When lawns are mowed or edges trimmed, these animals are often left
with serious injuries.
Use multiple dose baits if needed
If you must use baits, use multiple dose types so that predators do not
receive a large amount with their meal. The baits used to control pest species,
such as snails or rats, can find their way to other animals, such as blue
tongue lizards and birds of prey and even pet dogs, and poison them just as
effectively as the intended target.
|Tawny Frogmouth, image courtesy of Bonorong|
Let native animals remain wild. It is popular to feed human food to our
animal friends, and many people still consider it an act of kindness. However,
many of our foods can cause wildlife to become ill or injured. Further,
long-term feeding can encourage animals to live close to humans where there are
other dangers such as cats and cars.
That’s sound advice to help keep our native animals safe.
If you want more information on Bonorong, find out more on their website
Members of the public can join the Bonorong Wildlife Rescue Program or
request more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Find them at 593 Briggs Road, Brighton.
Like them on Facebook here.
Thanks to Greg and the team at the Bonrong Wildlife Sanctuary for their