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Road Kill Rescue -

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Road Kill Rescue

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NARRATION

One hundred and ten thousand brushtail possums, 30,000 pademelons, 16,000 wallabies. More than 3000
Tasmanian Devils. At least 300,000 mammals and birds are killed every year. That's an average of
one every two minutes, just in Tasmania.

Dr Alistair Hobday

Living in Tasmania with a lot of wildlife, it's a real privilege to be exposed to that. However,
that requires a responsibility I think as drivers to be more careful when you are using the roads.
If you live near a school, you wouldn't think it was acceptable to run over a lot of
schoolchildren. We modify our behaviour to the environment, and we should be doing that for
wildlife.

NARRATION

In his spare time, Alistair Hobday started investigating Australia's roadkill capital.

Alistair Hobday

The density of roadkill in Tasmania - about one dead animal every three kilometres - is
unprecedented worldwide.

NARRATION

Over three years and 15000 kilometres, he and his family counted more than 5000 fatalities as they
drove around the state.

Alistair Hobday

In total, we recorded over 60 different types of animals dead on Tasmanian roads.

Mark Horstman

There's plenty of scientific research about using road design to affect animal behaviour. For
example, you can build roads with tunnels, so the animals learn to run underneath. But this
research is different - it's all about getting us to change our driving behaviour.

Dr Alistair Hobday

We noticed there was a very high correlation between the density of dead animals and the speed at
which vehicles are travelling. And one of the really common management solutions would be to modify
human behaviour by changing their speeds.

NARRATION

By mapping the abundance and distribution of roadkill, he found more than half occurred on roads
where speeds exceeded 80 kph.

Dr Alistair Hobday

Interestingly, roadkill is not randomly distributed. The roadkill is concentrated in about 20 to 30
per cent of the road, in so-called hot-spots.

NARRATION

This is where Alistair's skills as an oceanographer came into play.

Dr Alistair Hobday

This logging system was developed for my work during my day job where I work on bluefin tuna, and
so every time we release a fish, we can locate, note the GPS position of where that animal was
released. So I've just modified that for use in the vehicle and with identifying roadkill instead
of tuna. A pademelon just there. We've got an aeroplane GPS hooked up to the car that runs through
a laptop. And every time I press this red button, it logs the location and the speed at which we're
travelling.

Mark Horstman

That's an ingenious system.

Dr Alistair Hobday

Yeah so just in that little bit of road there, we encountered about four different animals in about
a kilometre and a half. So that was definitely a bit of a roadkill hotspot. But you need to know
what kind of speed reduction would be effective, and I don't think it's going to be common across
all species. So we decided to do some speed trials and work out what kind of speed would be
appropriate to avoid hitting different animals, given their different visibility at night.

NARRATION

These are among the top ten victims of cars and speed at night - the Tasmanian pademelon, Bennett's
wallaby, the Eastern barred bandicoot, the Eastern quoll, and the Tassie devil. Alistair liberated
some specimens from the museum; a slightly tattered collection of stuffed Tasmanian mammals.

Dr Alistair Hobday

We looked at nine different animals from a range of sizes, and typically you'd think that your
ability to see an animal at night would be dependent upon its size. We took these animals into the
dark room, photographed them, and then digitally converted those images to get an estimate of
brightness. And when you think about it, the brighter the animal is, the further away that you'll
be able to detect that animal.Our hypothesis was that different animals would have different
detection distances.

NARRATION

To get the data meant many late nights on a dark road through bushland...and returning our stunt
animals to the wild.

Mark Horstman

To try and make things as representative as possible, Alistair's signed up twenty of his mates,
driving different vehicles, 350 times they've done this road and tonight I'm the next in line to
try the test.

Dr Alistair Hobday

Hello Mark.

Mark Horstman

What have you got in store for me tonight?

Dr Alistair Hobday

Ahead of you on the course is 600 metres of straight road. I'm going to have hidden a number of
stuffed animals on the road and maintain your vehicle at about 10 to 15 kmh, so we remove your
reaction speed as an issue.

Mark Horstman

Ten to 15 kmh, that could be the hardest part! Right, we're rocketing along, in our reasonably
priced car, at 10-15 kmh, looking for native mammals.

NARRATION

Like real life, there's an element of surprise. He hasn't told me how many or which species to
expect. They could be anywhere...on high alert, there's one! Oh, and there's a scientist.

NARRATION

Alistair measures the distance from the animal to the car with a laser range-finder.This is the
first research of its kind that's looked at a range of species. Now that's the pademelon.

Alistair Hobday

Thirty five metres.

NARRATION

There's one! OK, Looks like I've just saved a small wallaby.

Mark Horstman

Whoa, those Tasmanian Devils are hard to spot!

Dr Alistair Hobday

Twenty two metres.

Mark Horstman

So how did I measure up?

Dr Alistair Hobday

Well Mark, pretty typical results. The smallest and most reflective animal in the study you could
see from about 73 metres away -

Mark Horstman

Highly reflective.

Dr Alistair Hobday

Followed by the wallaby, pademelon, the quoll, and the Tasmanian devil, you could only detect that
from 30 metres away.

NARRATION

And that's a triple whammy for dark-coloured scavengers like the devil, an endangered species that
likes to eat roadkill at night, whose populations are already decimated by facial tumour disease.
The results show that detection distance is related to fur brightness, rather than size. And once
you know the stopping distance on high beam, it's a simple bit of maths to figure out the maximum
speed to avoid hitting each species at night.

Dr Alistair Hobday

Our results show that you need to be travelling between 50 and 80 kph, depending on the species, in
order to avoid hitting that animal. However for our really valuable species like Tasmanian devils,
it's actually a speed of 50 kph at night that's really appropriate. I think that if you want
signage to be effective, having a speed limit that would actually make a difference is pretty
important.

NARRATION

His citizen science has inspired the state's highway managers to start trialling reduced speed
signs in several hotspot areas.

Simon Buxton

We're working with Dr Hobday, the RACT and other members of the community, and devising the kind of
sign we might use. We're looking at the moment at a rectangular sign, in which will sit a yellow
diamond and there will be flashing yellow wig-wag lights in there.

NARRATION

In the meantime, you can download Alistair's GPS applications to warn you when whenever you reach a
roadkill hotspot.

Alistair Hobday

If you don't have a GPS, you can still download a map of where those hotspots are located, and
perhaps, you know, the son or daughter telling Mum or Dad when they're approaching a roadkill
hotspot and reminding them to drive responsibly at night.