One week ago, a video recording of a tiger crossing the newly developed National Highway 44 (NH44) went viral on social media. The video was recorded by a group of commuters passing through Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra. NH44 has been designed as a four-lane highway.
Wildlife enthusiasts and activists have pointed out that the underpasses situated on NH44 are not adequate. An underpass is a pathway, road or a tunnel built under the main road or a railway track. It is used by humans and animals alike to cross to the other side.
In February, an 11-year-old tiger was also found dead on NH44 and two days after the ‘tiger crossing’ video was shared, the news broke that two travelers died on the same highway in an attempt to dodge a wild boar spotted in their path.
While an inadequate number of Animal Under Passes (AUPs) have been the root cause of accidents taking place on NH44. On the other hand, experts have been able to observe interesting behavioral patterns as far as the usage of these AUPs are concerned.
For instance, Bilal Habib, a scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India (WWI) and his team have recorded 17 animal species using the AUPs on NH44 in a study report. The report which is part of The “Ecological impact assessment of existing and proposed road infrastructure in important wildlife corridors in India” study has found out that most of the times, tigers use one of the AUPs. In addition to this, 74 trap cameras showed that some of the animals visited the AUPs, either to play or to rest. The report also revealed that a sloth bear took nearly two months to decide if it should use the AUP or not.
The report further states that there were 27 occasions on which, 11 individual tigers have used AUPs three, four, seven, eight and nine. Eight has been the most frequented by these ferocious creatures. Habib Bilal’s team conducted the study over March, April, and May. The study is crucial for mitigation measures that can be considered in highway construction and similar projects.
“These are the first-ever wildlife mitigation measures in the country and the world’s biggest. Our study has found that 17 species have started using them… Tigers have been preferring the AUPs, which is very reassuring,” said Bill Habib while speaking to The Indian Express.
Besides tigers and sloth bears, the report tells us about AUPs being used by Chitals, Jungle Cats, Wild Pigs, and Palm Civets to name a few.
Non-wild life movement in terms of over 10,000 people and around 260 livestock using the AUPs on NH44 from March to May has also been recorded. Habib expressed that the non-wildlife movement needs to be controlled so that the AUPs can serve the actual purpose of free transit for the wildlife of Pench Reserve.
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