Climate & Environment
Canopy bridges installed to prevent deaths of Banke wildlife on highwaysSpeeding and reckless driving through sanctuaries continue to kill protected animals.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
Following several accidents involving wildlife in the Banke National Park, the forest administration has installed six canopy bridges to enable animals to cross the East-West Highway safely.
Installation of canopy bridges for the crossing of wildlife is a first in the country where human-animal conflict is widespread.
According to Bishnu Thapaliya, spokesperson for the national park, the bridges have been installed at five crucial locations—three along the East-West Highway and two along the Ratna Highway—that were prone to accidents involving wild animals.
“We identified locations for installation of bridges based on the road accidents involving wildlife from the park,” said Thapaliya. “There have been significant incidents of animals from the park killed alongside the highways.”
The Banke National Park is infamous for the deaths of wild animals in road accidents because two highways cut through a majority area of the park. A 72-km stretch from Shivakhola of Banke to Kohalpur along the East-West Highway falls within the territory of the national park. Another 30-km section—Kohalpur of Banke to Babai Bridge—falls between Banke and Bardiya National Park.
Overspeeding vehicles have affected wild animals, especially arboreal species like monkeys, squirrels, mongoose, snakes and pangolins, living in the park.
According to statistics, a total of 274 animals from the park were killed on the road in the past five years despite various measures and campaigns for controlling the speed of vehicles.
The regulations of the Banke and Bardiya national parks do not allow speeds over 40km per hour. However, reckless driving through the areas continues to kill wildlife.
Park authorities hope that wild animals from the park will soon get used to crossing the bridges at Khairi, Muguwa and Chisapani, as wildlife movement has been spotted there.
According to the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation, 40 percent of the wildlife deaths are attributed to road accidents along the highway. Not only arboreal species and small mammals, but large animals such as tigers have also been killed in road accidents along the highway stretch.
This year alone, two tigers from Parsa National Park got injured after being hit by speeding vehicles, in an instance of how vehicular movement threatens the country’s conservation efforts. In 2016, a male tiger from the Bardiya National Park was killed on the spot after being hit by a speeding vehicle on the East-West Highway.
Earlier this year, the department developed a model for all the infrastructure projects to be wildlife-friendly. As per the design, all the roads—including major highways—which traverse forests and protected areas need to maintain a set of standards for ensuring the safety of animals.
Until all infrastructure becomes wildlife-friendly, easy and cheaper measures like installing canopy bridges will be helpful in saving wildlife, according to experts.
“These canopies are easy to install and cheaper for future maintenance,” said Thapaliya. “All one requires are ropes, manpower and some wooden blocks. It can be easily set up anywhere,” said Thapaliya.
The national park has also installed camera traps to study the effectiveness of these crossings.
“The passing of wildlife will be regularly monitored with cameras for the next six months,” said Thapaliya. “We hope wild animals will get used to the bridges by then.”