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Dec 20, 2022

Seventh Tapir Accident on John Smith Link Road Reported

On Saturday, another tapir was knocked down and killed on the John Smith Link Road. This was the seventh such animal to perish on that road. The alarmingly high number of tapir deaths on that thoroughfare has prompted the founder of the Belize Tapir Project, Celso Poot to spread awareness about these animals in order to minimize future accidents with them. News Five’s Marion Ali reports.


Marion Ali, Reporting

The tapir, also known as Belize’s national animal or the mountain cow, are large herbivorous animals that have been around for millions of years. But in Belize, if the number of road traffic accidents continues at its current rate, it will put the population of these creatures in jeopardy. On Saturday, the most recent tapir killing occurred. It was caused by vehicular impact on the country’s newest thoroughfare, the John Smith Road.


Celso Poot

Celso Poot, Tapir Researcher

“The problem on both the John Smith Road and the Burrell Boom Road is speeding. I began noticing an increase in tapir vehicle collision from as far back as 2008. From 2008 to present I have recorded more than thirty-two tapir deaths on the John Smith Road and the Burrell Boom Road. And that’s a lot for Belize’s tapir population.”


Tapirs Researcher, Celso Poot, says that because the animals have a low reproductive rate, they are getting killed by vehicles and by predators faster than they are reaching reproductive age.


Celso Poot

“Tapirs have a gestation period of thirteen months, and then the young stay with the mom for one and a half to two years. That is very concerning because when we – we’re killing – we’re wiping out this local population basically by the high numbers we’re getting over a short period of time.”


Poot said that a speeding survey showed that drivers speed on that road.


Celso Poot

“We know the areas where the tapirs were getting hit, we go out there with speed guns, we hide and we record the speed that the vehicles are traveling at on the road. And on the John Smith Road before the speed bumps were installed, cars were going as high as eighty miles an hour.”


While there’s talk about installing wildlife underpasses on the highways, Poot says the current mentality towards roadkill will change when there are human casualties.


Celso Poot

“I think the wider community will get the attention when we lose someone. I believe that is only when the wider population will understand that this problem. You know in the US, wildlife vehicle collision is a big issue. It costs the US billions of dollars on an annual basis. As Belize develops, as we get upgraded roads, as we get higher density of vehicles, that will become a problem.”


Poot says there were undercrossings for wildlife under the John Smith Road, but they were too small for the animals who need to get on the other side. The road was built through a portion of the corridor these animals use as their natural habitat. Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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