I am on my way to Vasco after successfully conducting a camp for students at Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. 85 students have participated in the camp with 10 volunteers imparting knowledge on various aspects of wildlife. As I drive and ponder over the last four days, there are many moments to choose from, but the most vivid of them all is the pair of mating Tamil Tree-Brown (Lethe dryperis) butterflies crushed under the wheels of a vehicle while still attached to each other. That it happened in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary, a place where the right of way belongs to the denizens of the forest, is further disturbing.
I cross the BITS Goa campus along the airport road and see another road kill further ahead, this time, what looks like a dog. That is common I say to myself as I pass the dead dog by the road side with a pool of dried blood by its head and some coagulated around the nostril. After going beyond, I wonder if I actually saw a dog or was it something else. Parking ahead I walk back only see my worst fears becoming true, it’s a female Jackal (Canis aureus indicus) hit by, I am sure, an over-speeding vehicle. That the individual is a suckling female, evident from her enlarged tits, adds to my disgust. This one accidental death, means slow but sure death to the pups housed somewhere in a den of hunger or predation.
Road kills of wildlife are a common sight on Goan roads, especially snakes in the monsoons, birds which fly low, civet cats and the occasional leopard. Frogs and snakes get “butchered” in the rains. I use the word butchered with deliberate emphasis since they actually die in hundreds. Low flying birds like the Greater Crow-pheasant or Coucal (Centropus sinensis), the Bulbuls also meet this fate. I & Pankaj Lad reported the Slaty-legged Banded Crake (Rallina eurizonoides) as a new record for the State of Goa to a Journal and the paper is under review. That the proof of its presence is in the form of a dead specimen found on the road is not a very pleasing fact. I shudder at the thought of the fate of these animals after the proposed road widening in the State.
That the larger mammals and birds might suddenly get on to the road and get hit before the vehicle can be controlled is understandable and can be excused but not over-speeding. Over-speeding is what kills. An animal colliding with a slow moving vehicle can get hurt but need not get killed. I do drive fast at times but have on many occasions sighted animals further on the road giving me enough time to slow down or stop. I have lost count of the number of occasions when I have alighted from the vehicle to pick up a snake and release it safely by the road side. Also animal behavior gives away its intents. One needs to be careful when a dog is behaving fidgety…..It is sure to cross the road. A Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphrodites) can be very unpredictable. But being nocturnal it is very easily sighted at a distance by glowing eyes and one get enough time to slow down to avoid it. And finally do not forget the horn. It works wonders on animals. Also keeping your eyes on the road at all times will go a long way in reducing animal kills on the roads.
I personally feel it is a matter of being sensitive towards these creatures which will automatically put brakes on our wheels