Dr Paul Donald: Birds, Buddhists and Bypasses – Tales of Trafficking & Traffication

Nov 7 2023

What is Traffication? What does it have to do with Lark sex ratios? And why did David drive all the way to Scotland to find out? David speaks with the Senior Scientist of Bird Life International, Paul Donald.

David Oakes

David Oakes


Dr Paul Donald


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About this episode:

Senior Scientist at Bird Life International, previously the Principal Scientist at the RSPB, and before that at the BTO, Paul Donald is a world expert on things that flap and fly. As such, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that he has focused this expertise into a groundbreaking book about roads, the things that travel upon them, and the damage they do to nature. This in depth discussion of two halves begins by showcasing how Paul helped re-establish the population of one of the world’s most endangered birds – the Raso Lark of the Cape Verde Islands, how birds living within the EU have greater life expectancy than those living outside it, and how Buddhist beliefs may be inadvertently bolstering the illegal trade in rare birds. From then it’s on to the “extinction driving, landscape splitting, wildlife slaughtering, soundscape shattering, pollution spewing, climate changing, health wrecking, global catastrophe” which Paul has labelled ‘Traffication’. Did you know that the area in a bird’s brain dedicated to song learning is smaller in a bird exposed to road noise? Did you know the first electric car dates from 1888? And did you know that there is a species of Nightjar known to exist purely because of a single piece of feathered roadkill scraped up from the tarmacadam?! But most importantly, if you drive a car, what single thing can you do today to help our wildlife? This and much more in November’s episode of Trees a Crowd.

David's thoughts:

As well as to Paul (obviously a huge thank you to Paul), I would like to thank Volkswagen for bravely providing me with an electric vehicle to use in preparation for meeting Paul, and for arriving more informed about a much touted “solution” for our future transport woes. For a breakdown of my thoughts made on this trip having read “Traffication” (buy the book here), you can watch three short video diary entries below – one made and the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end of my journey.

Further to these thoughts, I remain of the belief that the British Highway Code should include a chapter upon the environmental damages associated with how, what and why we drive. I believe the tests, both theoretical and practical, associated with attaining a license to drive in this country should include being tested for one’s environmental awareness. I am looking for a way to attempt to make this possible.

Anyway, enjoy these three short videos:


Paul Donald (Twitter) – https://twitter.com/Alauda123
Buy “Traffication” – https://uk.bookshop.org/p/books/traffication-how-the-car-killed-the-countryside-paul-donald/7437874?ean=9781784274443
BirdLife International – https://www.birdlife.org/
British Trust for Ornithology – https://www.bto.org/
RSPB – https://www.rspb.org.uk/
The Raso Lark (Wiki) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raso_lark

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