Every year, thousands of animals are killed on Israel’s roads by unsuspecting drivers, and sadly, there’s not much the average driver can do about it. But now, thanks to a new initiative utilizing Israeli popular navigation app Waze, motorists can help save innocent animals from becoming roadkill.
Just in time for the United Nations World Wildlife Day, observed annually on March 3, Waze and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) have joined forces to help save road-crossing animals. The program involves maximizing the use of an existing reporting function on the Waze app – the “Roadkill” button. When Israeli Waze users report a dead animal they see on the side of the road, SPNI will gather that data and use it to determine the country’s most dangerous spots for wildlife in order to find solutions for their safe passage.
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“Putting our wildlife in grave danger”
“Israel’s transportation infrastructure continues to expand rapidly, providing thousands of kilometers of roads that allow humans to travel conveniently from place to place, but these same roads are putting our wildlife in grave danger,” Shmulik Yedvab, Director of SPNI‘s Mammals Center, said in a statement. “For gazelles, porcupines, badgers, turtles, hyenas, otters and many other species, crossing the road often results in death.”
The increasing awareness regarding the risks roads pose to wild animals has led Israeli road planners to build special passages for animals when building new roads or expanding and upgrading existing ones. However, there are still no viable solutions on dozens of existing roads across the country. It is for this reason that SPNI’s new campaign with Waze is so essential.
SPNI and Waze soft-launched the program in November 2016, and have been testing it ever since. Over the past four months, Waze users have embraced the app’s new function, with hundreds of reports streaming in monthly. In January alone, the Waze community of drivers logged 1,416 roadkill reports.
Just a few simple clicks
The public can ensure the success of this important campaign by being vigilant about reporting roadkill. After clicking the circular orange report icon within the Waze app, users should select the yellow triangular “Hazard” symbol, followed by “On road” and “Roadkill.”
Using the accumulated data, SPNI experts will create a ‘Wildlife Red Roads Atlas’ and work towards reaching a profound conclusion as to which animal species are run over most and why, and what can be done to reduce the number of animal deaths and human injuries.
Expanding to additional countries
Founded by Uri Levine, Ehud Shabtai and Amir Shinar in 2007, Waze was acquired by Google in 2013 for $1.3 billion.
The Waze-SPNI program is currently only available in Israel, but if other wildlife organizations follow SPNI’s lead, Israeli environmentalists believe that it could be adopted in other countries as well.
Photos: SPNI/Dov Greenblat, Waze, Government of of Alberta