From: Alex Rodriguez, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published December 15, 2014 09:57 AM

An app to save 400 million animals

Brazilian biologist Alex Bager has been leading a crusade to raise awareness of a major but neglected threat to biodiversity in his country.

Every year over 475 million animals die in Brazil as victims of roadkill, according to an estimate by Centro Brasileiro de Ecologia de Estradas (the Brazilian Centre for the Study of Road Ecology) or CBEE, an initiative funded and coordinated by Bager. This means 15 animals are run down every second on Brazilian roads and highways.

"The numbers are really scary and we need people to know about them," Bager said.

To register cases of roadkill throughout the country, Bager came up with the idea of an app, now used by thousands of citizen scientists. And a national day of action in November saw hundreds of volunteers participate in events to highlight the impact of roadkill on biodiversity.

Estimates

Bager, a biology professor at the Federal University of Lavras, in the state of Minas Gerais, presented his estimate at the Brazilian Congress on Road Ecology earlier this year and aims to publish a detailed study on the figures in 2015.

How did he reach the estimate of 475 million?

"We based our estimate on 14 scientific studies on this problem in different parts of the country. This allowed us to calculate a roadkill rate that we adjusted according to the type of road, area, local biodiversity etc.," Bager explained. "Finally we extrapolated the data to the massive Brazilian road network of 1.7 million kilometers and compiled the estimate for the whole of the country."

Brazil’s great biodiversity combined with an expanding road network are a perilous combination, according to Bager, who said that "our estimate is quite conservative, we fear the real numbers are even higher."

Citizen scientists

To gather more data about the impact of roadkill, Bager worked with developers to create an app for smartphones.

"This is one of the best examples of citizen science in Brazil I am aware of," he says. The app is called Urubu mobile, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the word in Portuguese for black vulture, an animal that looks for carcasses.

"When somebody sends a photo of a roadkill the exact site is registered with GPS. We have over 6.000 registered users in the whole of the country," Badger said, adding. "Anybody can join."

The app is part of a wider Urubu System. Each photo is analyzed by five researchers from a team of 500, and only then is integrated into a map that visualizes key problem areas throughout the country. 

Read the full article at ENN affiliate, MONGABAY.COM.

App image via Shutterstock.

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