According to the World Health Organization, 1.25 million people perish every year as a result of traffic accidents. With 23 road deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants, Brazil ranks a tragic fourth place in the Americas, following Belize, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. While many accidents in the country involve pedestrians and speeding in urban areas, others occur in rural settings, where collisions with wildlife can have fatal consequences for both drivers and animals.
To minimize the risk of these collisions, one effective strategy comes in the form of wildlife corridors, a kind of underpass that allows animals to safely cross busy roads. Research has proven that these structures can reduce wildlife collisions with deer-sized animals by an average of 87%. Given that 475 million animals die on Brazilian roads every year, investing in solutions is a matter of urgency.
In addition to avoiding unnecessary loss of lives, wildlife corridors also have a series of secondary benefits, as they ensure habitat connectivity for animals and reduce costs for vehicle repair, medical services, towing, law enforcement and carcass disposal.
Brazil’s largest paper producer and exporter Klabin S.A. would know. Running its own pine and eucalyptus plantations, the company heavily relies on roads for delivery and supply.
Since it was founded well over a century ago, Klabin has built a solid trajectory in sustainable development and environmental conservation. Its ecological park stretches more than 1,000 hectares and is home to fifty different species, several of which are endangered. By partnering with educational institutions throughout Brazil, Klabin actively drives conservation efforts and scientific research in the areas where it works.
When the company started constructing a state-of-the-art pulp production mill in the state of Paraná, it was therefore no surprise that minimizing impact on biodiversity was a top priority as it sought to connect its forests to the new mill. This was a particular challenge given the large number of pumas, capybaras and other fauna crossing the newly constructed roadways within the project site.
The construction of the paper mill itself received $300 million in financing from the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC), on behalf of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). To tackle the issue of road safety between the new factory and Klabin’s plantations, the IIC leveraged an additional $400,000 in funding through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to support the construction of wildlife-friendly road underpasses.
The new corridors not only allow animals to safely cross the company’s supply roads, but also reduce traffic hazards and improve habitat connectivity for a variety of native species. The GEF funds had a catalytic role in the construction of the underpasses, which are expected to have a demonstration effect and will likely be met with interest from other companies in the industry.
Klabin, for one, is already seeing a return on its investment. Since the underpasses were opened in March 2016, tracks of armadillos, wild cats and a native fox species have been found in the corridors. In addition to recording animal tracks, Klabin has installed photographic traps around its four tunnels and is actively monitoring its supply roads to prevent animal collisions.
This is not only good for wildlife, but also for the company as it seeks to scale up safety for its drivers and reduce its operating costs from accidents.
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Last modified: Febrero 27, 2017