Interview Frederick Bauer

Image Credit: Frederick Bauer

Written by Frederick Bauer

Frederick Bauer, Biologist, Master in Conservation Biology

Worked on the first efforts on road ecology in 2011-2012, first systematized monitoring of roadkill in Paraguay, and presentation of partial results in conferences. Has not been published since the monitoring planned for one year was not concluded due to a lack of institutional support (Secretary of the Environment)

He is the principal Investigator of the team that was awarded funds from the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), through the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences (FACEN) of the National University of Asunción (UNA), call 2015 to carry out a project for monitoring wildlife roadkill in a section of the “Transchaco” highway. This project started in 2017 and went on until 2019. Articles on more specific aspects have been published; the main article is still in writing stages.

Frederick has done consulting work for the IDB with previous team members to evaluate wildlife roadkill on a road to be paved in the future. There’s a possibility of publishing work results.

Assessed a specialization thesis of a team member (Viviana Espínola) was defended recently, to improve the identification of carcasses for citizen science, taking data from both previous projects.

Currently works as Scientific Director of WCS Paraguay and has reached an agreement with the Ministry of Public Works and Communications (MOPC) to continue monitoring work on routes in the Paraguayan Chaco.

 

 

 

1. How did you learn about road ecology, and what was your first approach to it? (200 words)

In my in first period as Director of Wildlife of the then Secretariat of the Environment (SEAM) of Paraguay, currently called the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development (MADES). Around 2011, a concern arose among me and some colleagues about an automobile event that takes place every year in the Paraguayan Chaco, the Transchaco Rally (in those years, it was held in September). We were concerned about the impact that this event, in which not only a significant number of competitors participate but also spectators, could have on the local wildlife since it is an area with abundant biodiversity.

For this reason, we set out to monitor wildlife roadkill during and after the Transchaco Rally for a year. However, due to budgetary reasons and a need for more institutional support, we could barely complete seven surveys. The data was quite preliminary, but we were able to present it at a regional congress later.

 

 

2. What road ecology efforts have you participated in? (200 words)

After that first unfinished work in 2015, we submitted a proposal to a call from the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) through the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences (FACEN) of the National University of Asunción (UNA) to carry out monitoring in the same section of the unfinished project, the first 250 kilometers of the Transchaco Route. This was the first road ecology project in Paraguay following a standardized methodology, completing all the campaigns in order. The visibility that this discipline was given through the project was critical at the national level since, for the first time, it was possible to publish relevant statistics on this problem, the mitigation measures, and the contributions that citizen science can give.

Subsequently, we carried out monitoring work as a consultancy for the IDB in a section of another highway in the Paraguayan Chaco.

All the experience obtained allowed us to participate in various talks, meetings, and management recommendations to entities such as the IDB, the Ministry of Public Works and Communications (MOPC), and MADES.

 

3. What are the most run-over species in Paraguay? (150 words)

In the sections that we have worked on, the reptile that has been run over the most has been the cat’s eye snake (Thamnodynastes hypoconia), especially abundant in areas of the Chaco where roads cross wetlands.

As for birds, the most vulnerable are scavengers that come to eat other roadkill, with the (Caracara plancus) “caracara” and the black-headed “yryvú” (Coragyps atratus) being the most frequent.

As for mammals, the clear leader is the black-footed fox or crab-eating fox (Cerdocyon thous) by a significant difference, followed by other frequent species depending on the habitat, such as the red-footed fox (Lycalopex gymnocercus), the honey bear (Tamandua tetradactyla) and the crab-eating raccoon (Procyon cancrivorus).

Due to their relative frequency and conservation status, the most compromised species in the stretches we have studied are the anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactryla) and the maned wolf (Crysocyon brachyurus).

 

4. How is the Ministry of public works related to making roads friendly to the environment? (200 words)

Fortunately, the MOPC has competent, conscientious, and well-trained professionals in its Socio-Environmental Management Department (DGSA). However, the struggle between the speed of progress of the works and environmental care is constant. On the other hand, international entities that finance highway construction, such as the IDB, have high standards that must be met. That is why there is a clear trend to build increasingly environmentally friendly roads.

This process must be continued so that not only impact mitigation measures are installed but also that they are implemented in the places that are needed. This creates the commitment that these mitigation measures can be of such a nature that they can be increased or transferred as needed under the evolution of the landscape, which would imply more sustained monitoring over time.

 

5. What is the current perception in Paraguay of road ecology? (100 words)

I am pretty confident that as a result of the 2015 CONACYT project mentioned above, and thanks to the dissemination and citizen science campaign that we carried out, there is now a different awareness of road ecology. Followers of pages about nature were installed in the circles of nature lovers. Ecologists, public entities such as MOPC, MADES, others such as the IDB, and even private engineering companies have contacted us for specific inquiries.

 

6. What do you think should be improved in Paraguay to promote ecologically sustainable highways for wildlife? (150 words)

I think the foundations have been laid. However, I believe that for now, such high standards are not yet a priority for highways that are not financed by international entities. The institutional strength of MADES in this regard must be improved, as well as the creation of specific regulations that do not yet exist.

The actual problem today is not a lack of awareness at a general level but a question of costs, legal obligations, and technological innovation so that the methods of implementing mitigation measures are more economical and dynamic to adapt to changes in the landscape in areas evolving from natural to rural environments and then to small settlements.

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