Book Review: A Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road, Darryl Jones

Book Review: A Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road, Darryl Jones

 

The Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road Darryl Jones

Nonfiction: A Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road, Darryl Jones

 

When our youngest son started driving on his own he experienced something all too familiar to residents of central Pennsylvania–indeed, residents throughout much of the US and other parts of the world. A deer jumped out in front of him and he hit it.

 

The deer’s injuries did not keep it from dashing off into the dark. Thankfully, our son was uninjured and the car had only minor damage. Still, the experience shook him and he was nervous about driving again for some time.

 

I’ve been driving much longer. Although I am generally very careful, I have hit my share of animals. A deer, squirrels, chipmunks, birds. Given that much of my driving has been in urban areas, I have not had nearly as many car/wildlife encounters as many do who live in areas with more creatures and fewer humans.

 

A Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road is all about the carnage our vehicles have left on the animal world. We often think of the animals we can easily see or that can damage our vehicles or injure our passengers: deer, antelope, wild cattle, larger predators. We talk about the metaphorical elephant in the room, but an elephant on the road is a major problem in India or Thailand or Kenya. The real devastation, though, is with smaller creatures: insects, lizards, snakes, rodents,amphibians, small marsupials, birds, etc. Cars create bands of barrenness along the highways. We used to travel to a small Indiana town along a highway constantly riddled with the bodies of opossums. Every week the dozens we saw before would be replaced by dozens more. Multiply that by the millions of miles of roads across the entire planet, and you begin to see what havoc we wreak on the landscape and the animals that live in it.

 

Roads often follow ancient animal trails, or cross their migration paths, or separate populations from sources of food, water, or mates. Regardless of how fast an animal may be, cars are faster. They shine or reflect lights that distract, they hurtle along at breathtaking speeds, and they are made in ways designed to protect those within rather than those without. And although the book did not get into this, I can’t help but wonder whether the advent of nearly silent electric cars will make these encounters even harder for creatures to avoid.

 

Darryl Jones’s work involves coming up with solutions to this problem. Countries around the world are trying various approaches. Overpasses and underpasses designed specifically to give animals safe transit across roads have had some success. Novel road designs which take the environment into account have successfully reduced the number of animals killed by transiting vehicles. There is no “one size fits all” approach, and given the millions of paved miles around the world it will take years to make any difference with more than very local significance. Still, as the parable of the boy throwing starfish from the beach back into the sea reminds us, although the difference may be small in the face of the problem, to the areas benefiting from these changes, they mean the world.

 

Our thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book to review.

 

The Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road Darryl Jones

Book Review: A Clouded Leopard in the Middle of the Road, Darryl Jones

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