Wild animals use rope bridge to safety

June 6th, 2008 - 12:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 6 (IANS) A 70-metre rope bridge strung across a busy highway in Victoria is helping locals cross over safely - only the locals in this case are wild animals. Yes, researchers have reported that endangered local species have indeed started using what has been dubbed the world’s first “wildlife rope-bridge”, thus avoiding accidents that were killing and maiming many.

“We have early proof that our native animals are regularly crossing the rope bridge over the Hume Highway near Benalla and many other animals are investigating the bridge,” said Rodney van der Ree of the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology (Arcue).

“Native animals have acclimatised to the 70-metre bridge and are using it to cross the highway to find food, shelter and mates,” van der Ree was quoted as saying in a statement.

Since June last year, researchers have observed 50 crossings of ringtail possums and almost as many partial crossings, seven partial crossings of brushtail possums and four partial crossings by squirrel gliders.

Van der Ree said the results for the squirrel glider are particularly encouraging as they are faced with the threat of extinction in the provinces of Victoria and New South Wales.

“The animal moves by gliding from tree to tree so where there are large gaps in tree cover, such as roads, it is unable to cross,” said van der Ree.

Relying on specially installed cameras at both ends of the rope-bridge which record the time and date on each photograph, the researchers established which animals were making an attempt and which are making it all the way across the bridge.

“We have also gathered information on other species, for which the rope bridge wasn’t originally intended, such as cockatoos, magpies and ravens, the occasional gecko, and large spiders, so this is a bonus,” said Kylie Soanes of the University of Melbourne.

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