Basic questions on eco-link projects need answering

Recent traffic incidents involving wild animals crossing the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) have focused attention on the effectiveness of the $16 million Eco-Link@BKE, as well as the upcoming eco-bridge in Mandai (Rare deer put down after 3-vehicle accident, June 18; and Pregnant wild boar killed in BKE accident involving 3 cars, June 23).

Do such projects achieve the primary goal of facilitating connectivity for wildlife, and contribute to safer traffic conditions?

First, what proportion of the population of the different wild animal species use the Eco-Link@BKE?

Anecdotal observations of individual animals crossing the eco-link are uninformative of the multi-million dollar project's success in facilitating connectivity for wildlife.

Would we consider an overhead bridge a success if it served only 3 per cent of the residential population?

Second, how many vehicle-animal collisions occurred on the BKE before and after the construction of the eco-link?

This information will help determine whether eco-link projects significantly reduce the likelihood of vehicle-animal collisions, or whether additional safety measures such as partial fencing and wildlife connectors like underpasses need to be explored.

It is vital to consider both questions simultaneously.

If the eco-link provides insufficient connectivity between wild animal populations, or is only used by a minority of species, and at the same time drastic measures to reduce animals crossingthe road - such as by the installation of continuous fencing - are introduced, this additional isolation could have a negative impact on the animals.

Finally, it is possible that the majority of animals actually cross the road without incident.

Might this be explored by analysing traffic camera footage?

Mark Wong Kah Loon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2018, with the headline 'Basic questions on eco-link projects need answering'. Print Edition | Subscribe