Thursday, February 04, 2010

Rage against road kills


Pune-based activist Vilas Kane has been documenting road kills of animals in Maharashtra. In the hill station of Mahabaleshwar alone he reports 600,000 snakes crushed by vehicles in a single year. So many kills can disturb the ecosystem.

One thing led to another. For Pune-based documentary filmmaker Vilas Kane, a 20-minute film titled The End of an Innocent Life, shot over three years ago, led to a serious deliberation on how and why animals die attempting to cross highways and roads cutting through forests.

Two years ago, his NGO Sakshatkar conducted a survey in the hill station of Mahabaleshwar, located around 305 km from Mumbai, and came up with the startling fact that almost 600,000 snakes were crushed by vehicles in an area of just 150 sq km in the span of a year.

Kane wants to take the issue further and has initiated a survey of road kills across the state of Maharashtra. To do so, he has asked hundreds of volunteers and wildlife enthusiasts to send him documented evidence of any road kill they happen to come across. In just over six months, Kane has been able to build up a huge databank of road kills, most of which were spotted on highways during the night.

“This is just the beginning. We have to cover 10,000 km of roads that run through the state,” he says.

What will he do with all the data? “The idea is to shock people with the figures. I want people to become more sensitive whilst driving, especially when passing through forests,” he says.

The End of an Innocent Life is a 20-minute film that was shot over a period of eight days in Mahabaleshwar. It was the sight of a checkered keelback squashed by a speeding car that led to Kane unearthing 172 such deaths in a week. “The road kills of larger animals have always generated debate and awareness campaigns, but similar cases of snakes have been ignored. What we have to realise is that so many kills can disrupt the entire ecosystem, and the repercussions will be known only after a certain period,” he says.

Armed with a digital video camera, Kane scouted around for dead snakes and realised to his horror that almost 45% of them belonged to the shield tail species which is endemic to the Western Ghats.

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Article by:
Dev Sinha

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