How wildlife crossings help animals suffering from the effects of habitat loss

How wildlife crossings help animals suffering from the effects of habitat loss

By Lucy Jones  January 27th, 2021

Bridges and underpasses are being used to help lemurs, reindeer, jaguars and crabs get around.


Wildlife crossings are being built around the world to help with animal migration, improve biodiversity and prevent animal deaths on roads. From Mexico to Christmas Island, these crossings are being used to help animals reconnect to parts of their habitat that they have been cut off from by highways.

Sweden is the latest country to embrace wildlife crossings with the recent announcement of a plan to build 12 bridges for its threatened reindeer population.

Sweden is home to 250,000 reindeer who are cared for by 4,500 indigenous Sami herders. These animals are already feeling the affects of climate change, with forest fires and freezing rain cutting them off from food sources. The 'renoducts’ (reindeer viaducts) will help herders safely guide reindeers to new grazing lands.

“In a changing climate with difficult snow conditions, it will be extra important to be able to find and access alternative pastures,” Per Sandström, a landscape ecologist at the Swedish university of agricultural sciences, said.

Wildlife crossings are used in many other parts of the world to protect creatures great and small. In Madagascar, Lemur bridges built in the forest canopy help these cute critters cross roads without leaving the safety of the treetops. Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada is home to seven bridges and 41 underpasses that have proved popular with local grizzly bears and mountain lions. And in Mexico, underpasses are used to protect jaguars from traffic.

A little closer to home, bridges have been built on Christmas Island to help red crabs complete their annual migration from the bush to the beach.

Fauna underpasses, bridges, glide poles and rope bridges have also been built around Australia to help animals navigate our roads safely.

A 2018 study showed that threatened squirrel gliders use 'glide poles' to cross from one patch of bush to the next.

"The use of a glider pole by a feathertail glider was considered unexpected, given the species' small size and vulnerability in open areas, and a gliding capability not as strong as other larger species," mammal ecologist Ross Goldingay told ABC News.

"This extends the size range of species documented using glide poles."

The poles were also regularly used by sugar gliders, feathertail gliders and squirrel gliders.

The global success of various types of wildlife crossings means they will likely become an even more common fixture on our freeways.

With climate change posing new threats to animal habitats, wildlife crossings help ensure that animals do not become isolated in small patches of land. These structures can improve a species' chance of survival by increasing access to water and food, link biodiverse areas together and improve the genetic diversity of animals.

Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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