Green bridges help animals safely cross the German Autobahn

To protect the country’s native wildlife, Germany has built more than 80 “green bridges” since 2005, helping hundreds of thousands of native animals cross roads safely, including elk, deer, wild boars, wolves, foxes, badgers, raccoons and other animals.

The so-called “green bridges” (called Wildbrücken or Grünbrücken in German) are man-made passageways that are strictly off-limits to humans. The wildlife crossings are covered in vegetation that makes them look like an extension of the land on either side of the road.

The eco-friendly passages are “so wide and diverse [that] they appear like an extension of the forest, and animals, the thinking goes, would be less inclined to go galloping across roads … resulting in fewer accidents and a slimmer cleaning bill,” Suzanne LaBarre, an advocate of the concept, told the Atlantic.

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Many of the green bridges are equipped with cameras, allowing researchers to gather data on how many animals use these wildlife crossings. Over the past 15 years, more than 100,000 wild animals were sighted on green bridges over the Autobahn in Brandenburg. We can only imagine how high that number must be throughout the whole country!

Although wildlife bridges can be found in the US and Canada as well, Germany (along with France, the Netherlands and Switzerland) was among the first countries to begin constructing them.

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Each year, there are hundreds of thousands of registered collisions with wildlife in Germany – not including small animals.  Some of these collisions kill lynx and wolves, both of which have been making a comeback in Germany. Large roads and canals also prevent animals from traveling freely, thereby limiting genetic diversity and leading to an increase in death and disease. But the construction of green bridges helps to put a stop to that.

Last month, researchers reported that the gray wolf population in Germany is staying safe thanks in part to green bridges.

Opponents to green bridge projects often cite the high costs of building these bridges. Construction of the wildlife crossings can cost millions, but if they succeed in preventing wildlife collisions, they may be able to save both human and animal lives and reduce damage and cleanup costs in the long run.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

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