As a Brazilian-born biologist and nature photographer, I have always made animals a part of my life. At first all I wanted to photograph were the beauties of the natural world and tell nice stories about them—the kind that everybody likes to see and read and hear. But years of driving on roads in and around the Pantanal made me start thinking of another way to promote environmental conservation besides just taking pretty photos. I was seeing beautiful mammals, birds, and reptiles closer than I'd ever seen them. But they were dead. This is how I began photographing roadkills, hoping to sensitize drivers and authorities to the silent slaughter that takes place on these roads every day.
During the wet season many animals use the roads to move about, since the surrounding land is flooded. In the drier periods, however, the situation gets even worse: The roadside ditches are the last places to dry up, providing a water source as well as a safe harbor from field and pasture fires. This is also the breeding season for most species and the high season for tourism. Consequently, vehicle traffic increases at exactly the same time animals are looking for mates and, later, giving birth. Mothers with newborns are especially vulnerable. One friend found a dead female giant anteater whose baby was still alive and hanging on to her back; another saw a female marsh deer that had just delivered a fawn, which was lying dead behind her.
It's been hard to remain indifferent while taking these roadkill photographs. Once I found an injured anteater that had been hit by a car. I contacted the Forestry Police, who rescued it, but it eventually died. Through this activity I've concluded that the death of wildlife on the roads may be playing a crucial role in the decrease of some species' populations. I see this as one of the consequences of "progress." On the BR-262, a major road in the southern Pantanal between Campo Grande and Corumbá, animal mortality rates have increased since the building of the Bolivia-Brazil Gas Duct and the opening of a bridge over the Paraguay River at the end of 2000.
When you're traveling on roads near preserved environments anywhere in the world, keep the animals in mind—for your safety as well as theirs. Respect the speed limit and avoid traveling at dusk or at night, when animals are more active and more vulnerable, since a vehicle's headlights can confuse them and cause them to freeze in their tracks. It's been sad work documenting roadkills in the Pantanal, but I hope it will raise awareness of this avoidable slaughter.
—Daniel De Granville