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Australia: Roadkill data paints bloody picture of wildlife carnage across Tasmania

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The government says measures such as fences and under road culverts only offer © Provided by ABC Business The government says measures such as fences and under road culverts only offer "variable" efficacy. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)

The blood-red lines on the map of Tasmania, along every road, tell the story.

Seen close up, red dots indicate the locations of roadkill, as reported by the public over a three-year period.

Zoomed out, the red dots become lines that crisscross Tasmania, becoming interwoven and tangled, especially around urban centres.

The map, and the 59,990 reports of roadkill, are the results of data collected by the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program (STDP) through the Roadkill TAS smartphone app, launched in July 2018 by the Tasmanian government.

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The trial, which concluded in August 2021, was meant to "assess whether citizen science data collected through this approach could usefully inform roadkill mitigation approaches".

People reporting roadkill via the app were able to submit notes with their data.

In these, the despair of those witnessing the last moments of wildlife is palpable.

In one report, the witness wrote of a "one-year-old male pademelon" with 'visible bones and facial injury".

"Very sad as people really shouldn't be driving over 20-30k on this tiny joining street but we frequently see people going at 40-50k, it's alarming," the anonymous report reads.

In another report, about a red-necked wallaby, the witness writes "couldn't stop. This is a very dangerous road for wildlife".

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Another notes "three animals mown down on one 20-metre stretch of road. Council refuses to enforce dirt road or after dark speed limits!"

One entry reads "five animals all together by road, I moved skulls together to show the number of animals".

Other reports betray little emotion, simply stating what was seen.

"Female with wide pouch, but no joey," reads one, while another notes "male, his face was very messed up".

The reports, which include quolls, pademelons, tawny frogmouths, hawks, wallabies, little penguins, Tasmanian devils, possums, potoroos, bandicoots, echidnas, platypuses, also note babies are often found killed or injured with their parent.

"Joey in pouch, unviable", one entry reads.

Another account notes a dead "female" animal, with "pouch full of pink young".

The data collated by the app and other sources over several years found almost 37,000 red-necked wallabies were logged, followed by 11,000 brushtail possums and 4,700 Tasmanian pademelons.

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Just under 950 Tasmanian devils were also reported, a concerning figure for an endangered animal population.

President of the Tamar Valley Roadkill Initiative Bruce George said Tasmanians needed to abandon the idea that roadkill is just a normal part of life.

"Many people believe that we have grown up with roadkill and the apparent apathy displayed is because people are conditioned to living with it," he said.

"Static signage needs to be replaced with signs that are aimed at speed reduction showing a vehicle's approaching speed. Maybe we could go further and make lower speeds in wildlife corridors enforceable. I think road design also plays a part.

"I have heard many criticisms from tourists expressing their shock at the level of roadkill in this state.

"On a half-a-kilometre stretch of a 60kph straight road in front of our accommodation we counted 24 wallaby carcasses over the Christmas break alone that's appalling."

Artist and registered wildlife carer Ruth Waterhouse said roads covered in carcasses had become "normalised, accepted".

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"It shouldn't be, it really shouldn't be."

Ms Waterhouse is part of Wildlife and Community Together, a newly formed group "passionate about and committed to making Tasmania's roads and communities a safer place".

"It's just like-minded people that want to make a difference," she said.

The group states "many of us have spent hours, months, even years feeding and caring for orphaned joeys and injured animals.

"We've driven kilometres day after day to collect severely injured animals who may have suffered a fractured pelvis, or significant head trauma having spent the night lying in agony in a gutter, for example.

"They are the lucky ones, others suffer for days and die slowly and painfully, if they're not found or reported by a member of the community."

Tasmania's growing popularity as a destination meant "people are flocking here because it's such a great place," Ms Waterhouse said.

"But that means more people on the roads, more subdivisions."

Although only comprising of 15 members, the group aims to "work collaboratively with local community members, relevant stakeholders, councillors and our state government, to reduce their suffering on Tassie's roads".

While individuals and community groups are often the ones tending to the dead and injured on the side of the road, the government says the things it could provide, such as fences and under road culverts, only offer "variable" efficacy.

In the end, it says "reducing roadkill is the responsibility of all road owners and road users".

In a statement, DPIPWE said it was "investigating options for a new mobile app-based roadkill reporting system that will allow easy reporting of roadkill and streamlined upload to web-based mapping tools where the data will be available for anyone to interrogate".

Until then, the public can view the almost 60,000 entries of 2018 to 2021 roadkill reports at the Natural Values Atlas, after creating a free account.

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