Brazilians create application to prevent death of roadside animals

Mobile app photographs animal run over and uploads to database. Mobile vulture wants to boost planning to curb animal deaths.

A smartphone app could become Brazil's main ally to reduce road kill of roadkillers, estimated at 450 million a year.

The program allows anyone who has a cell phone to send a photo of a runaway animal that will automatically add to data such as the location (GPS), the date and time the image was taken.

This is the "Vulture Mobile" (available for Android and Google Play), which in just one month was downloaded by a thousand people.
Officials expect it to be popular not only among biologists, rangers, environmental inspectors and road police, but also among truck and bus drivers.

The intention is to create a unified database of wildlife roadkill in the country and thereby gather information that can serve as a basis for policies or measures that will attempt to reduce this type of accident.

"We want to accurately identify how many and which species are run over by the mile and day in the country," said Alex Bager, professor of ecology at the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA), one of the leading experts in "Road Ecology."

According to Bager, who coordinates a group of scientists from five universities that study the subject, as well as providing reliable information on animal trampling, the application will allow to create a "seal of quality" to certify the safest roads for wildlife and determine in which ways preventive measures need to be taken.

"We want to help with wildlife conservation and we will only be able to propose effective actions to reduce roadkill if we have concrete information," he added, for whom the program will allow him to draw maps of the hardest hit regions and species.

According to the coordinator, after identifying the most dangerous sections for animals, it is possible to suggest the installation of tunnels, safety nets, walkways or even ropes that can be used by animals living in trees.

The project will also allow to create a unique and reliable methodology for accounting and validating animal deaths on the roads. Researchers estimate from studies with limited samples that 450 million animals are run over every year.

In his first survey of the subject in 2002, Bager estimated 100,000 annual animal deaths on a 150-kilometer stretch of road at a rate of 2.1 animals per kilometer per day.

Taking into account that Brazil's road network reaches 1.7 million kilometers, experts concluded that each year, 450 million animals are run over. Of these, 400 million are small vertebrates and three million large vertebrates.

The main victims are tapirs, capybaras, turtles, skunks, wild cats, bush dogs and anteaters. The "Vulture Mobile" will also allow, with the help of 300 researchers linked to the CBEE, to identify the most affected species.

"Each photo will be reviewed by five experts and the identification of the species will be included in the database when at least three of them agree," he said.

The app is also intended to support road-cut environmental reserve administrators in adopting more effective protection measures.

One of the biggest concerns for techies today is a bill discussed in Congress that eases road building regulations in environmental reserves.