Wildlife Crossings around the World

Rapid deforestation and excessive human intervention into wildlife habitat has lead to frequent straying of wild animals into human habitation. Intrusion into wildlife habitat typically occurs due to illegal encroachment and also when roads, railroads, canals, electric power lines, and pipelines penetrate and divide wildlife habitat. Wild animals attempting to cross roads often find themselves in front of speeding vehicles.

Road mortality has significantly impacted a number of prominent species in the United States and elsewhere, including white-tailed deer, Florida panthers, and black bears. According to a study made in 2005, nearly 1.5 million traffic accidents involving deer occur each year in the United States that cause an estimated $1.1 billion in vehicle damage. In addition, species that are unable to migrate across roads to reach resources such as food, shelter and mates experiences reduced reproductive and survival rates.

 

Wildlife overpass in Banff National Park. Photo: Joel Sartore 

One way to minimize human-wildlife conflict is to construct wildlife crossings such as bridges and underpasses that allow animals to cross human-made barriers safely. The first wildlife crossings were constructed in France during the 1950s. Since then, several European countries including the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and France have been using various crossing structures to reduce the conflict between wildlife and roads. In the Netherlands alone there are more than 600 tunnels installed under major and minor roads including the longest “ecoduct” viaduct, near Crailo that runs 800 meters.

Wildlife crossings have also become increasingly common in Canada and the United States. The most recognizable wildlife crossings in the world are found in Banff National Park in Alberta where the national park is bisected by a large commercial road called the Trans-Canada Highway. To reduce to effect of the four lane highway, 24 vegetated overpasses and underpasses were built to ensure habitat connectivity and protect motorists. These passes are used regularly by bears, moose, deer, wolves, elk, and many other species.

 

In the United States, thousands of wildlife crossings have been built in the past 30 years, including culverts, bridges, and overpasses. These have been used to protect Mountain Goats in Montana, Spotted Salamanders in Massachusetts, Bighorn Sheep in Colorado, Desert Tortoises in California, and endangered Florida Panthers in Florida.

The Netherlands contains an impressive number of wildlife crossings – over 600, that includes both underpasses and ecoducts. The Veluwe, a 1000 square kilometers of woods, heathland and drifting sands, the largest lowland nature area in North Western Europe, contains nine ecoducts, 50 meters wide on average, that are used to shuttle wildlife across highways that transect the Veluwe. The Netherlands also boasts the world’s longest ecoduct-wildlife overpass called the Natuurbrug Zanderij Crailo. This massive structure, completed in 2006, is 50 m wide and over 800 m long and spans a railway line, business park, river, roadway, and sports complex.

Ecoduct Borkeld in the Netherlands.

Banff.

 

Ecoduct Kikbeek in Hoge Kempen National Park, Belgium.

 

Banff

 

Elephant underpass in Kenya.

 

Around the World in 105 Cows

A book of bovine beauty shots seeks to revive the human-cattle bond.

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While Werner Lampert was living on an alpine pasture, he discovered that cows have an insatiable appetite for, among many things, poetry. Each morning, he’d clamber up a small hill to the pasture where his bovine neighbors were grazing. There, he’d read aloud the works of the German Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin. The cows would gather around him, listening attentively until he finished delivering the poem at hand. “When I stopped … they would soon scatter,” writes Lampert. “But the next morning they would be there waiting for me again.”

According to Lampert, cows and humans share a special relationship—one that goes way deeper than impromptu poetry readings. That’s why he partnered with a team of photographers to journey around the globe documenting the many breeds of cattle that populate the planet, as well as the humans who look after them, work with them, worship them, and eat them. His forthcoming book, The Cow: A Tribute, is an epic ode to the stunning diversity of cows and the many ways in which they’ve helped humans thrive over the past 10,000 years. From the skyward-pointing horns of Ethiopian Raya-Azebo cattle to the spellbinding eyes of Austrian Montafons, The Cow offers a comprehensive, striking mosaic of the global bovine body and soul. (Yes, Lampert asserts, cows have souls.)

You should probably make this ridiculously stunning Grauvieh picture the background of whatever device you’re reading this article on.

With the help of cows, writes Lampert, humans have been able to successfully inhabit even the most extreme environments. In parts of northeast Siberia, temperatures can dip as low as -90 degrees Fahrenheit. But, with thick, white hair covering its compact body and udder, the gritty Sakha Ynaga can still produce plenty of milk. The Sakha people rely on this high-fat beverage for nourishment and medicinal purposes, and use the Sakha Ynaga’s dung as insulation to keep their homes warm throughout the harsh winter.

The book itself.
The book itself. 

Lampert celebrates not only the resilience, strength, and utility of these age-old beasts of burden, but also the way they’ve shaped human communities, culture, and religion for thousands of years. Cows are spiritually revered within many religious communities, and have been since ancient times. “Sacrificial cattle were the link between man and the gods, a channel for sacred communication between them,” writes Lampert. “Cows were possibly the first sacred animals in human history.”

It’s with a similar tone of reverence that Lampert describes each breed of cow he profiles. He readily admits that an image of Tiroler Grauvieh, the silvery-grey, graceful cows that roam about the eastern Alps, currently features as the background image on his phone. “Of course!” he writes, “so I am reminded of their sheer beauty every day.”

According to Lampert, the Hariana cow (Haryana, India) is a lie detector of a cow, and will “go quite crazy” if someone lies in its presence.
According to Lampert, the Hariana cow (Haryana, India) is a lie detector of a cow, and will “go quite crazy” if someone lies in its presence. WERNER LAMPERT GMBH, PHOTO JUDITH BENEDIKT

The Ankole, found in Uganda, as well as parts of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and Tanzania, is characterized by its majestic gait and giant, twisting horns. Warm to the touch, the powerful, bony structures are believed to be crucial tools for keeping cool. Filled with supportive tissue, the horns usher in warm, circulating blood, which cools as it flows to the tip of the horn.

Lauded for its striking beauty, the Ankole is also integral to community structure and affairs. According to Lampert, these cows are never sold, but rather included in dowries, offered up as appeasement if someone has broken community rules, or gifted to those who have suffered some kind of misfortune. “Ankoles help maintain equilibrium between people,” writes Lampert.

But while some communities have embraced cattle and bolstered populations, others have essentially destroyed them. This is the history of the North American bison, which once numbered more than 30 million by some estimates, stretching in vast herds across the Great Plains. European colonization and decades of habitat destruction, reckless hunting, and mass killing of the creatures (intended to deprive Native American communities of a food supply), shrunk that number to nearly 1,000 by 1890.

A beautiful, fuzzy bison behind a bush (left) and two Ankoles and their iconic horns (right).
A beautiful, fuzzy bison behind a bush (left) and two Ankoles and their iconic horns (right)

In a way, Lampert’s tribute to the diversity of the world’s cows is also a eulogy. He searches desperately for the Kouprey, a beautiful, elusive, endangered ox believed to be living in the Cambodian jungle. But the team couldn’t find a single one. According to Lampert, they’ve likely fallen victim to poaching and habitat destruction. This is part of a larger trend, he says. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, of about 1,408 breeds of cattle, 184 are listed as extinct and 490 as at risk.

There was, perhaps, a time when these utterly mystifying ungulates were more than just cash cows to most of us. But, Lampert points out, something in this special human-bovine bond has been broken. We’ve begun to take without giving—or even really appreciating—our bovine companions. We view them as products, not as the fascinating, resourceful, stunning creatures they are.

The cows seem to like music to.

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