Wildlife roadkill: illuminating and overcoming a blind spot in public perception


1Office of Environment and Heritage NSW, PO Box 1967, Hurstville NSW 2220, and Department of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, WA 6150.


Wildlife roadkill is a tragic blind spot in public perception, both internationally and in Australia. Despite an increasing body of data documenting the frequency and distribution of roadkill, and its consequences for specific animal populations, scientists and engineers alone have been unable to develop solutions that challenge the prevailing indifference to the problem. This points to an urgent need to develop approaches to roadkill which engage the general public, and which draw from the insights of a range of scholarly communities. This paper contends that a broader response to the problem, and to the conceptual basis of its solution, is required if we are to effect substantial change. The author, an ecologist, has attempted to draw on the work of humanities scholars on the subject of roadkill in order to demonstrate the value of their ideas for enriching our understanding of the problem. This essay also aims to develop a deeper understanding of the significance of roadkill by exploring the different ways it is understood by specific groups, such as those interested in its consumption, its artistic portrayal, and educational potential. The diverse perspectives from the humanities, combined with the quantitative and species specific approach of research scientists, promises to overcome the current impasse and build a more robust and wide-ranging public discussion.