KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is planning to build more viaducts and roll out wildlife crossing awareness at driving schools after recording more than 2,000 roadkill cases on the peninsula over five years, many involving endangered animals.
Between 2012 to 2016, wildlife roadkills have included not only the more common monitor lizards (667 cases) and macaques (393) but also endangered animals such as tapirs (43), according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in a statement this week.
In the first nine months of 2017, the Malayan tapir topped the list of endangered animals killed on the road, followed by Asian leopard cats (14), elephants (2), binturong or Asian bearcats (2) and one leopard.
Johor recorded the highest number of incidents in the past five years with 494 such cases, followed by Kedah (479), Perak (394), Terengganu (310) and Negeri Sembilan (161).
"This totally senseless killing of our animals has to stop and is such a waste of our national heritage," said minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar in a statement on Monday (Oct 16).
According to officials, wildlife roadkill incidents usually occur at night, when the animal is trying to cross a road or highway from one area of forest to another in search of food, mates "or seeking more suitable habitat for its survival".
In August, a pair of tapirs were killed by a motorist at the Gebeng bypass, days after an elephant died when a tour bus ran into it in Perak.
Last year, a critically endangered Malaysian tiger which was pregnant with two cubs was run over by a car headed to Kuala Terengganu.
HELPING ANIMALS GET TO THE OTHER SIDE
Malaysia's Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) has so far installed 236 warning signs at 133 roadkill hotspots to warn drivers to slowdown.
"Please slow down when you see these warning signs," said Dr Wan Junaidi.
"It is indeed disheartening to know that some drivers tend to speed up when they see those animal crossing signs."
Dr Pazil Abdul Patah, the director of the Department of Biodiversity Conservation at PERHILITAN told Channel NewsAsia that his department is in talks with driving schools across the country to incorporate wildlife crossing awareness into their curriculums by next year.
Three viaducts have also been built specifically to help wildlife cross safely, with plans for more.
"It has been positive to see a lot of wildlife have been using the viaducts - elephants, bears, tapirs, deers, wild boars and smaller animals like civet cats and flat-headed cats," said Dr Pazil.
Dr Wan Junaidi told Channel NewsAsia most road builders have been told to create wildlife-friendly viaducts when building through forests and sanctuaries as well.
However, environmentalists are concerned that roadkill incidents will only increase with several major rail projects in the works - including the High-Speed Rail linking up Singapore to Malaysia and the East Coast Rail Link cutting across the Titiwangsa mountain range.
Dr Junaidi said that his officers are providing input on these projects for developers to include tunnels and viaducts for wildlife in their construction plans.