Contradiction and complacency shape attitudes towards the toll of roads on wildlife
© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Most people in the world now live in cities. Urbanisation simultaneously isolates people from nature and contributes to biodiversity decline. As cities expand, suburban development and the road infrastructure to support them widens their impact on wildlife. Even so, urban communities, especially those on the peri-urban fringe, endeavour to support biodiversity through wildlife friendly gardens, green spaces and corridors, and conservation estates. On one hand, many who live on city fringes do so because they enjoy proximity to nature, however, the ever increasing intrusion of roads leads to conflict with wildlife. Trauma (usually fatal) to wildlife and (usually emotional and financial) to people ensues. Exposure to this trauma, therefore, should inform attitudes towards wildlife vehicle collisions (WVC) and be linked to willingness to reduce risk of further WVC. While there is good anecdotal evidence for this response, competing priorities and better understanding of the likelihood of human injury or fatalities, as opposed to wildlife fatalities, may confound this trend. In this paper we sought to explore this relationship with a quantitative study of driver behaviour and attitudes to WVC from a cohort of residents and visitors who drive through a peri-urban reserve (Royal National Park) on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia. We distributed a self-reporting questionnaire and received responses from 105 local residents and 51 visitors to small townships accessed by roads through the national park. We sought the respondents’ exposure to WVC, their evasive actions in an impending WVC, their attitudes to wildlife fatalities, their strategies to reduce the risk of WVC, and their willingness to adopt new ameliorative measures. The results were partitioned by driver demographics and residency. Residents were generally well informed about mitigation strategies but exposure led to a decrease in viewing WVC as very serious. In addition, despite most respondents stating they routinely drive slower when collision risk is high (at dusk and dawn), our assessment of driving trends via traffic speeds suggested this sentiment was not generally adhered to. Thus we unveil some of the complexities in tackling driver’s willingness to act on reducing risk of WVC, particularly when risk of human trauma is low.
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