WARNING – GRAPHIC IMAGES: A flattened Tasmanian devil found on an isolated road is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wildlife deaths in Australia’s “roadkill state”.
Tourists looking for a nature-based holiday were horrified to find the endangered mammal squashed between logging coupes in the Florentine Valley, 45km northwest of Hobart.
While Florentine Road is usually void of cars at night, local man Bert Lawatsch, who photographed the devil, said logging trucks roar through the forest each night.
Given the animal's condition, Mr Lawatsch suspects it was hit by a heavy vehicle.
“You couldn't really tell (it was a Tasmanian devil) until you're right on top of it and saw its jaw line and teeth,” Mr Lawatsch said.
“The rest of it was fairly squashed.”
Fear millions of animals killed on Aussie roads
A recent roadkill study, which collected the details of 1609 animal victims via an app, found 85 per cent of mammals killed in Australia were struck at night.
The study’s author Dr Bruce Englefield, told Yahoo News Australia, he estimates a minimum of four million mammals and six million reptiles and birds are killed on Australian roads each year.
He says recent studies examining the impact of virtual fences, which combine flashing blue and amber lights with an auditory warning signal, have not shown significant impact in curtailing wildlife deaths, despite earlier research suggesting otherwise.
Environmental groups say they would like to see an after dark curfew placed on logging trucks running through remote forests, where they are often the only traffic, to help safeguard vulnerable species like the Tasmanian devil.
With less than 20,000 Tasmanian devils believed to exist in the wild, after a facial tumour disease reduced their numbers by 80 per cent, each animal counts.
Tasmania’s department of environment (DPIPWE) confirmed the surviving “small, isolated” devil populations are “more vulnerable” to other threats including roadkill.
Timber company silent on roadkill issue
Sustainable Timber Tasmania, who manage many old growth logging sites across the state, did not respond to repeated requests to provide comment for this article.
The government enterprise has been unable to gain Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for its old growth harvest sites due to its logging practices.
It remains unclear as to whether the company supplies truck drivers with training on how to avoid native animals, if there are regulations involving speed at night in sensitive areas, or whether drivers are educated about how to treat injured wildlife.
Tasmanian based environment group, Bob Brown Foundation, has been monitoring logging vehicle traffic in the Wentworth Hills, located in Tasmania’s central plateau.
A campaign manager from the group, Jenny Weber, said activists have recorded trucks arrive at the logging coups at 12.30am and 4.00am.
“It sounds like a super highway with log trucks, just consistently heading out of those forests,” Ms Weber said.
“We also know that they're travelling three or four hours north to Launceston to the woodchip mill, taking their old growth logs to the wood chipper.
“The traffic that is on the road at night time are the log trucks and that's exactly when the Tasmanian devils are out and about as well.”
Devils use roads at night as thoroughfares
Like humans, Tasmanian devils use the roads like highways to cut through forests, making them particularly vulnerable.
Veteran devil vet Dr Collette Harmsen said many are hit while dining on the bodies of dead wallabies and possums.
“I’ve seen a lot of dead devils, particularly young ones who haven’t quite worked things out,” Dr Harmsen said.
“They’ve left mum, or mum’s left them, and they’ve got to work things out for themselves, but they’re not as road savvy as they would get with a bit more time and maturity.
“It’s a real shame because they’re the new breeding population of devils and they’re just being wiped out really quickly on roads.”
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