ROADS encroach on animal habitats and populations, posing a hazard to wildlife.
In Malaysia, as elsewhere, the rise in roadkill incidents contributes to biodiversity loss, which is a threat to the wellbeing of humans every bit as dangerous as climate change.
The solution includes safe corridors of transit between habitat areas — passages and bridges — and better driving habits.
On an exceptionally large scale, we need to ensure the connectivity between national and international protected areas and animal habitats.
A global effort to conserve biodiversity got underway recently. Campaign for Nature (CFN) called on governments worldwide to protect at least 30 per cent of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030, deemed by scientists to be the minimum area needed to halt biodiversity loss.
The proposal received a major boost when it was included in the “zero draft” of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework currently being negotiated by the 196 member states of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for endorsement by governments at the 15th Conference of the Parties next May in Kunming, China.
Last June, this writer and fellow members of the CFN’s Global Steering Committee, led by former United States senator Russ Feingold, urged world leaders to invest in nature, arguing that protected areas stave off poverty, provide key wildlife habitat, generate jobs, fight climate change, and will guard against future pandemics.
Protected areas are critical to ending the mass extinction of plants, animals and microorganisms that keep our air clean, our water pure and our food supplies plentiful.
Over the past 10 years under the CBD, nations have made admirable progress in creating protected areas.
The so-called 30 by 30 proposal would significantly expand that effort.
We recognise that those areas also need to be networked as well, something nations have not done nearly so well in the past decade.
A new report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group has likewise underlined the major shortcoming in conservation efforts to date: a lack of consideration for connectivity between protected areas.
An insightful article on Aug 12 titled “Guidelines for Conserving Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors” said “while the concept of an ecological corridor is easy to grasp, efforts to date to conserve corridors between protected areas have come up short”, according to the report leader, Dr Jodi Hilty.
“This is in part due to the fact the concept is quite new and the conservation tools that we have in place were not developed with conserving connectivity in mind. Yet, the bulk of data demonstrates that, more than ever, maintaining ecological connectivity through corridors is key to the conservation of our natural world.
“Connected, protected, and conserved areas are stronger, and corridors are a major component in successfully fighting fragmentation and strengthening biodiversity. These physical links are one of the most important ways to ensure species can move between protected areas and maintain genetic strength,” she added.
Hilty, an internationally-renowned wildlife corridor ecologist and conservationist, notes the many reasons wildlife has to travel across landscapes and between large protected havens, including seasonal migrations, escaping natural ecosystem disturbances, and adaptation to climate change.
The barriers to their movement likewise vary, from fences and highways to towns and other development that obstruct them from finding mates, food, or new places to thrive.
Hilty argues that ecological corridors could benefit people by providing pathways for mobile communities in hunting/gathering cultures and pastoralists, providing areas for recreation, buffering rivers, streams, and wetlands and serving as homes to crop pollinators, or as sources of seed stock for forest regeneration.
Malaysia’s concern about the fragmentation of its rich biodiversity resources and the security of water catchment was reflected in the Central Forest Spine Master Plan in Peninsular Malaysia, adopted in 2009, which recommended 37 ecological corridors.
In addition to preserving the health of ecological functions, the master plan aimed to conserve endangered wildlife species, including Asian elephants, Malayan tigers, Malayan tapirs and Malayan gaurs.
The reality is no method will solve the pressing issue of mass extinction of species caused by widespread human alteration of ecosystems and climate change.
Together, protected areas, ecological corridors and other effective conservation mechanisms represent an arsenal of tools to improve and conserve biodiversity today and into the future.
By : Zakri Abdul Hamid (An ambassador and science adviser to the Campaign for Nature and senior fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia) –NST