In search of roadkill

In search of roadkill
NUS research assistant Mary-Ruth Low has been cruising along roads near forested areas on her motorbike to document roadkill involving animals such as snakes and monitor lizards.

On two days last month, 26-year-old Mary-Ruth Low cruised along leafy roads near forested areas on her Yamaha motorbike.

Ms Low, a research assistant at the National University of Singapore (NUS), was not out on joy rides but going around at a speed of 25kmh to look for animals - dead ones to be precise.

This may seem like a gory task, but it is part of a one-year study that Ms Low started last month to get a sense of how many reptiles and amphibians die due to collisions with oncoming vehicles.

Once every two weeks, she and two others visit 10 sites, including Old Upper Thomson Road and Mandai Lake Road, to look for animal carcasses. The areas chosen include those where roadkill is said to be found most frequently.

Armed with a handheld GPS (global positioning system) device, a ruler and a point-and-shoot camera, Ms Low takes pictures of dead animals and records the precise locations where they are found.

She does not usually pick up the animal carcasses. But if she comes across a rare species, she will hand it over to the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum for research purposes.

Asked what made her start this study, Ms Low, who does research at NUS on the spatial ecology of reptiles, said there is hardly any documenting of roadkill involving animals such as snakes and monitor lizards.

This was even though "being ground-dwelling and slow-moving creatures, they are most prone to deaths by oncoming traffic".

"The data is out there but no one is really looking," she said. "Hopefully, we can establish baseline data which can be used for future reference."

Mr Louis Ng, chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), said animals may be on the roads to bask or roost at roadside vegetation.

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