Feburary 2019 | Hayley Manning
DATA RESULTS from Australia’s first virtual fence trial, reveal the system is effective at reducing the estimated 500,000 animals, reptiles and birds, killed on Tasmanian roads each year. A 2018 white paper published in the Australian Mammalogy journal, ‘Roadkill mitigation: trialing virtual fence devices on the west coast of Tasmania’, shows the most commonly affected species impacted by road traffic are the Brushtailed possum, wallaby, pademelon, spotted-tailed quoll and Tasmanian devil. The Tasmanian Government’s ‘Save the Devil Program’ (STDP), lead by researcher and author of the paper, Dr Samantha Fox, conducted a three year trial on a 13 km stretch of road between Arthur River and Marrawah, from 2014 to 2017.
The small, high-tech devices are mounted onto posts at 25 metre intervals along the roadside and work when approaching headlights prompt audible, blue and yellow lights that deter animals from entering the road. Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary Director, Androo Kelly, said it took the devil facial tumour crisis to stir the government into action. “Road trauma does take a lot of devils and eastern quolls each year, so the government could have been looking for solutions earlier,” Androo said.
Wildlife Safety Solutions (WSS), founder Jack Swanepoel, “appalled” by the amount of roadkill he witnessed while holidaying in the state, was researching online when he discovered the virtual fence system on an obscure tech website in Austria. Jack says the system he imported into Australia is still at an experimental stage, but he has “high hopes” the Tasmanian government will take notice of the world’s first published, peer reviewed article and start using the cheap and easy to install devices around Tasmania.
“There is power in voices and numbers. I encourage everyone involved in conservation to band together with councils and make them realise we have a good solution here,” Jack said.