Most people are familiar with the sad sight of dead animals on the side of the road, and many vehicle accidents in South Africa involve a collision with wildlife. Insurance claims suggest that approximately R82.5 million is paid each year in damages as a result of wildlife-associated vehicle collisions. While actual collisions are the most obvious impact of roads on wildlife, other negative consequences include reduced air quality due to vehicle emissions, noise interference, and physical barriers to animal movement caused by the position of the road itself.
Temporary road closures, wildlife crossings, and bridges are means of improving safety for wildlife near roads, but the most common method is the use of roadside signs to warn motorists and mitigate wildlife-vehicle collisions. Signs installed in areas of high animal activity can help make drivers more aware of wildlife presence and ideally modify driving behaviour.
With this in mind, the Cape Leopard Trust (CLT) and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) have launched the ‘Spotted on the Road’ campaign to raise awareness about wildlife on roads in the Overberg. The campaign is part of the collaborative Tale of Two Leopards project (see links at the end of this document to read more), which focuses on two iconic species found in the Overberg region – the leopard and the Western Leopard Toad (WLT). Leopards and WLTs find themselves in an increasingly urbanised environment and must navigate through this transformed landscape, including crossing roads. The Endangered toads move en masse during their breeding season from July – September and when juveniles disperse in October. It is during these times that they are most vulnerable on roads. Leopards in the Cape have huge home ranges that are intersected by many roads, and leopards often cross roads in mountainous and natural areas, especially at night, putting them at risk of collisions with vehicles.
The Tale of Two Leopards Spotted on the Road campaign worked with Cape Town-based artist Bryan Little to create reflective road signs of WLTs and leopards in an innovative move to alert motorists to slow down for these, and other animals on the roads, especially at night. The signs have been installed at five strategic locations in the Overberg, based on where WLT mortality by vehicles has been recorded previously and areas where camera traps have confirmed leopard movement. The locations vary between public and private land and tarred and dirt roads to maximise their reach.
The signs were introduced to the public at an informal evening event held at Ou Meul Bakery and Café in Stanford on Saturday,16 July 2022. The Spotted on the Road evening featured an informative presentation, the unveiling of the signs, and an outdoor frogging experience at the Willem Appelsdam in Stanford. Contrary to the usual wet and windy weather that accompanies the Cape’s winters, the evening turned out to be calm, sunny and warm – perfect conditions for a nature walk to view the new reflective signs while listening out for different toad and frog calls around the dam. The CLT and the EWT sincerely thank the various landowners and the Overstrand Municipality who granted permission to host the new signs, as well Ou Meul Stanford for hosting the event, and Mountain Falls Spring Water for sponsoring its locally bottled water.
The reflective road signs now join the interpretive Tale of Two Leopards information signboards to remind residents and travellers of the Overberg region’s amazing biodiversity. Please join us in our mission to protect it by making the roads of the Overberg safer for all wildlife!
Spotted on the Road Call to Action – How Can You Help?
- Drive slowly, especially at night
- Be on the lookout for animals on the roads
- Don’t swerve, but avoid collisions by reducing speed
- Help a toad cross a road (in the same direction in which it is travelling)
Be a citizen scientist and submit information!
- Contribute to leopard research by submitting photos of leopard sightings, signs like spoor or droppings, and threats to leopards to the CLT Western Cape leopard database: app.capeleopard.org.za
- As we move deeper into winter, the Western Leopard Toad breeding season is in full swing. This is an amazing time in the Overberg to see and hear this Endangered toad. Please share your WLT sightings with the EWT: inaturalist.org/projects/leopard-toads-of-the-overberg