Protecting the protected through assessing driver behaviour in protected areas, South Africa

Wendy Collinson, Endangered Wildlife Trust
Harriet Davies Mostert, Innocent Buthelezi, Lizanne Roxburgh - Endangered Wildlife Trust. Courtney Marneweck - University Of Mpumalanga
Topic Area
Mitigation for Transportation Projects

Social media discussions highlight public concern for wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) inside protected areas. We investigated factors affecting the likelihood of WVCs within Pilanesberg National Park (North West Province), and assessed the comparative effectiveness of wildlife-warning signage (WWS) for altering driver behaviour. We laid a dummy snake on roads across four combinations of habitat and road shape and recorded 10 driver-related variables for 1454 vehicles that passed, or collided with the dummy snake. An interaction between speeding and driver occupation (staff/visitor) was the best indicator for WVC. When driving below the speed limit, visitors were almost three times more likely than staff to hit the dummy snake. Collision probabilities increased when speeding and became more similar between visitors and staff, although still significantly higher for visitors.
We investigated the effectiveness of signage in modifying driver behaviour by erecting four variations of WWS, depicting either a snake or a cheetah. We positioned the dummy snake either 100 m or 1 km after the signage and recorded our 10 variables (n = 6400 vehicles). Sixty-one percent of drivers who passed a WWS changed their behaviour when they saw the dummy snake, compared to 37% with no sign present. Further, this behaviour change significantly reduced collisions, with 98% of drivers positively altering their behaviour. Finally, a WWS depicting a snake, and placed 100 m before the dummy snake, was most effective at reducing collisions. Our results suggest that drivers adapt their behaviour to signage that portrays smaller animals and awareness retention is low.

Abstract Keywords
Protected areas
South Africa
Wildlife-warning signage