South Africa has no shortage of wildlife spotting apps. From the ambitious crowdsourcing attempts to catalogue our South African reptiles to the world-renowned Latest Sightings for Kruger Park. You might, then, question why we need one more Android-based fauna identifier. Especially when it’s asking citizens not to hunt down rare species in their glorious habitat, but to identify animal corpses on the side of the road.
Roadwatch, created by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), is an app for logging roadkill. Not, you might think the most salubrious of subject matter but, according to EWT it’s essential if we’re going to create a reliable database of what red dot species live where, and what sort of danger they’re in from South African drivers.
We caught up with EWT’s Emily Taylor in Diepsloot last week, where the organisation is encouraging people to report sightings of rare animals and working with developmental and environmental NPOs like the Wot-if? TRUST to gather data. She explained that EWT wants to create a range of apps for sightings, primarily for use in cities and townships.
“We’re trying to develop a database for urban data,” Taylor explains, “To make it easy for residents to identify when they have – say – a genet in the garden.”
Existing projects to crowdsource information about South African wildlife tend to be focussed on specific types of animals – like the long-running South African Bird Atlas Project – or wildlife in-game reserves and remote areas. Little work has been done logging urban populations of, say, rare bullfrogs in Kyalami says Taylor.
Hence the initial app for EWT,Roadwatch, which asks people to take photos of animals killed on the side of the road. It’s not the most important work the Trust engages in, but its an area where little – if any – research has been done before.
“Roadkill simply hasn’t been studied here,” Taylor says, “The road ecology, and how many endangered species are being killed, is something we need to know more about. We want citizens to report as much as possible.”
By identifying where endangered species are most at risk of being hit by cars, Taylor says, the organisation can start to do something about it.