In addition to reporting rush hour traffic standstills and vehicles pulled over on highway shoulders, drivers can now use the Waze navigation app to help save members of the four-legged public.
Ahead of UN World Wildlife Day this Friday, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and Waze are launching a joint program to make use of an existing reporting function on the popular app – the “Roadkill” button. From now on, when Israeli Waze users report a dead animal on the side of the road, SPNI will be harnessing the data to determine the country’s most dangerous spots for wildlife and find solutions for their safe passage.
“The widespread existing network of roads in Israel continues to expand at a fast pace,” said Shmulik Yidov, head of SPNI’s Mammal Center. “Thousands of kilometers of roads enable us, as humans, to move conveniently from place to place. But what about the wildlife? Transportation infrastructure is a challenge and a danger to a wide array of wild animals.”
Among the animals that face the most dangers on the country’s highways are deer, porcupines, badgers, turtles, hyenas and otters – as they cross the roads often, according to Yidov. Not only are individual animals often killed by cars, but their populations are also becoming fragmented as a result, creating demographic and genetic diversity problems in the long-term, he explained.
By using the “Roadkill” reports filed through Waze, SPNI hopes to rescue thousands of wild animals every year. In January alone, the community of Waze users reported 1,416 such incidents, on both intercity highways and on rural roads. Some of the thoroughfares with the most reports in the past few months are roads 6, 1, 65, 2, 5, 4, 3 and 90.
With the data generated, the organization will be creating a “Red Road Atlas for Wildlife” and taking action to regulate safe crosswalks for animals. Through both observation and the use of surveillance cameras in problematic areas, SPNI representatives said they hope to deepen their understanding as to why these animals are being run over and what steps can be taken to minimize the number of deaths.
In order to report the presence of dead animals on the road, Waze users should click the circular orange report icon on the application – and select the yellow triangular “Hazard” symbol, followed by “On road.” The user should then click on “Roadkill,” accompanied by an illustration of a tiny porcupine, with X’s over its eyes and a yellow hazard symbol mounted on its head.
“The growing awareness about the severity and existent danger to animals as a result of roads led planners to add and build special passages for animals on new roads, or those undergoing expansion and upgrades,” Yidov said. “But there is still no solution for dozens of existing roads, and this requires a longterm evaluation to examine the efficiency of new passages.”