In honor of UN World Wildlife Day on March 3, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and Waze officially launched a new venture aimed at reducing the number of wild animals that are run over on Israel’s roads annually, a statistic that has climbed into the thousands in recent years.

The new SPNI campaign calls on Israeli drivers to use Waze, the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app, to report sightings of wild animals that were run over in open spaces and outside urban areas.

The reports will be used to map the roads that are most dangerous to wild animals and provide the data required for creating safe passages for wildlife, preventing further damage and reducing the number of animals killed.

“Israel’s transportation infrastructure continues to expand rapidly, providing thousands of kilometers of roads that allow humans to travel conveniently from place to place, but these same roads are putting our wildlife in grave danger,” said Shmulik Yedvab, director of SPNI’s Mammals Center.

“For gazelles, porcupines, badgers, turtles, hyenas, otters and many other species, crossing the road often results in death. Additionally, fragmented habitats disconnect animal populations from one another, causing demographic and genetic problems to many species, impairing their long-term survival.”

A major Israeli roadway fragments the natural habitats of the local wildlife population. Photo by Dov Greenblat/SPNI

As a result of increasing awareness about the risks that roads pose to wild animals, Israeli planners have started to build special passages for animals when constructing new roads or expanding and upgrading old roads.

ISRAEL21c previously reported on the eco-bridge recently constructed as part of Israel’s rerouting of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway for this very purpose.

This artist’s rendering of the Highway 1 eco-bridge for animals playfully depicts elephants, though the animals living in the area really include deer, gazelles, wild boars, foxes, jackals, hyenas, porcupines and reptiles. Image courtesy of Netivei Israel

However, dozens of existing roads across the country lack similar solutions. This is why SPNI and Waze teamed up for this initiative, soft-launched in November 2016.

Over a four-month testing phase, Israeli Waze users embraced the app’s new function eagerly. In January alone, they logged 1,416 roadkill reports.

Using the accumulated data, SPNI experts will create a Wildlife Red Roads Atlas and examine which animal species are run over most and why, and what can be done to reduce the number of animal deaths and human injuries.

Waze was founded in 2008 by three Israelis in Ra’anana, and was acquired by Google in June 2013.