Wildlife corridors

Wildlife corridors
Jacqui van Heerden

Animals have always roamed on this earth, the bison herds across the plains in North America, the wildebeest and elephants across Africa.

These herds are an important part of the ongoing regeneration of the plains leaving behind their nutrients from their urine, faeces and fur, etc. And in the sky, large flocks of birds, locusts and bats among others put on wondrous shows of beauty as they move across the skyline during seasonal changes.

The BBC’s documentary The Great Migration gives us an insight into these migratory processes and their value to the planet.

There is a wonderful documentary about the role of the bison as a keystone species in North America and how after the targeted killing of the bison by colonists the plains are been rewilded again with pure-bred bison.

The free movement of birds, lizards, fish, smaller mammals, eels, etc. across the Australian landscape allows for the continuation of healthy ecosystems through the functions each of these play in the overall balance of these natural systems.

Free flowing rivers, native grasslands, stepping stones of trees and native vegetation , the maintenance of wetlands and shore habitats for migratory birds are important to maintain this natural movement of animals.

Increasingly our species has moved more into animals’ migration and access paths with our development, resource extraction, fencing and building of infrastructure that has fragmented the habitat, impacting on this intricate and complex movement of life on earth.

Our human activity results in limiting animal travel routes and isolating wildlife populations.  Fragmentation of habitat causes stress and possible extinction of species creating loss of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

In the regions and coastal areas, we see enough road kill to know that we have interrupted the ability for wildlife to move safely around their habitat due to the construction of roads that cut across their access points.

Signs do warn us of animals crossing – but how can we expect small snakes, lizards, kangaroos, wombats to safely cross highways where cars are travelling at 100kms per hour? Is this fair? Surely, we can do better than that.

The acceptance that human development needs to be adapted to preserve and enhance the natural processes of ecosystems is reflected in the increasing reference of the term “green infrastructure.”

The term “wildlife corridors” has been created in recognition of the importance of maintaining these natural movements of species. Wildlife corridors are connections across the landscape that link up areas of habitat and they support the natural process allowing species to move to find resources such as food and water and a mate.

Wildlife corridors can range in size – from small corridors created by local communities to large corridors that stretch across many different landscapes.

In terms of creating wildlife corridors, important characteristics include width and length, vegetative cover, habitat quality, location, human influences, noise, light, edge effects, degree of connectivity, and the presence of barriers.

There are several examples of how wildlife corridors have been reintroduced in different countries.

One of the most successful examples was that of the creation of a wolf corridor in a golf course in Jasper National Park, Alberta in 2001. This corridor enabled wolves to pass through the course and it is considered one of the first demonstrations of how wildlife corridors are used by wildlife and can be effective in decreasing fragmentation.

In northern NSW large bridges covered with trees and shrubs have been built over highways for wildlife to cross safely. Unfortunately, none exist in the state of Victoria.

An example of a community-driven approach can be found in the UK in a village Kirtlington, Oxfordshire where a volunteer-run hedgehog highway was created that passes through 60 properties with people simply putting holes in their fences.

A local is campaigning to make hedgehog highways a legal requirement for new housing developments in the area.

Versions of wildlife corridors can be created in your own backyard to let smaller wildlife move safely from one area to the next for food, reproduction and habitat.

A small pond can help for frogs, trees and vegetation can help with smaller birds and insects.

What can you do:

  • From dawn to dust in regional areas travel at 60kms an hour to reduce roadkill.
  • Support existing wildlife corridors such as wetland and coastal shores and free flower rivers for migratory, birds, fish and other animals.
  • Lobby all levels of governments and members of parliament to create and maintain wildlife corridors along highways, rivers and train tracks.
  • Help fund the campaign for the longest wildlife corridor in East Africa through GetUp’s campaign.
  • Create your own wildlife corridor in your backyard.
  • Create a local neighbourhood wildlife corridor •
John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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