Indian rock python (Python molurus) remains a vulnerable species in its entire range. Major threats to the species includes habitat destruction, killing out of fear, and in some places – roadkill incidents. The species grows up to 20 feet plus and requires suitable habitat to survive. There are few places in India where they are tolerated in agricultural lands.
A cluster of several villages in central Gujarat has set a great example of human-python coexistence. This has been made possible by intensive engagement programs by local biologists and conservationists. Pythons live in agricultural lands without much issue to the farmers and farm labourers working in the same space. They understand pythons are harmless if left alone and that they are great controllers of rodents, and huge problem for farmers. Small and medium sized snakes are tolerated without any problem, and if they are displaced the people safely remove them from homes and backyards, and release them in the farms. In case of large sized snakes, local rescuers are called for help only to move them out of way, but not out of the home range.
Pythons too have started to adapt in this new arrangement of coexistence. They are often found in farms, feeding on rodents and hares. They use artificial refugia for shelter such as old irrigation pipes/canals, construction debris, etc. We have recorded them breeding in artificial dens incidentally created by people. Many of these are near the tar roads, and when babies hatch out and are dispersing, many inevitably get killed in road accidents.
The region has seen some development in the past 2-3 years with new tar roads coming up, allowing fast traffic from both sides. Some of the roads are resulting in a higher rate of roadkills and regularly. The habitat in this area is typically open scrub forest along with agricultural farms. The wildlife need to locally move from one patch to the other for various resources like food and shelter, for breeding, and for territoriality reasons. Several wildlife dies each year due to roadkill incidents and it is only getting worse. There is an urgent need of mitigating roadkill incidents and educating motorists to reduce the kills and protect native wildlife.
While our target species is rock python, other major wildlife species that will benefit from this project are jungle cats, jackals, monitor lizards, turtles and tortoises, other small mammals and reptiles/amphibians.
Key objectives of this project are:
- To study roadkills and to quantify its impact on wildlife
- To study commuter behavior to access intentional v/s accidental roadkills
- To put up warning sign-boards at strategic locations
- To educate local communities
- To implement mitigation measures involving multi-stakeholder participation
- To set up long-term monitoring of roadkills via surveys
We are engaging local community members as field researchers who are trained in survey methodology. We encourage participation of community members via citizen science approach and contribute by providing valuable data. Our team of researchers, field assistants, and volunteers are logging roadkills everyday. We will soon have a map showing high prevalence zones. These would be our priority target for mitigation.
We are partnering with Project Road Watch – an initiative supported by Wildlife Trust of India and David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, to monitor wildlife roadkills through the use of Road Watch (android) Application. The objective of this collaboration is to enhance the understanding of the impacts of roads and railway lines on wild animals.
Major supporters of this project are Wildlife Trust of India, and Subhadra and Kannan Jayaraman.
We strongly encourage everyone to use Road Watch App to report wildlife roadkills and contribute to scientific studies that can help conserve wildlife. You can install the app from your android’s Google Play Store.