WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Lions have been feeding off farmers’ cattle thus causing conflict between conservation and food.
- Painting the butts of cattle with eyes makes lions believe that they have been seen.
- Trials are still ongoing on this inexpensive method’s effectivity.
Loss of habitat has led to wild animals hunting domesticated animals for food.
As Dr. Neil Jordan, conservation biologist from UNSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science says, “As protected conservation areas become smaller, lions are increasingly coming into contact with human populations, which are expanding to the boundaries of these protected areas.”
This has also resulted in subsistence farmers losing their source of livelihood or food. Take the case of Botswana where lions have attacked cattle. Farmers have retaliated by poisoning or shooting the lions, making their population even smaller.
To address this conflict, conservationists at the UNSW have followed what mother nature has been doing all along— the concept of being seen.
For a long time, butterflies that have eye patterns on its wings have deterred birds from eating them. And forest woodcutters in India have worn masks at the back of their heads to trick tigers into believing that someone is looking at them.
Dr. Jordan then came up with painting eyes on the backsides of cattle to trick the lions into believing that they have been seen. They call it “psychological trickery”.
This came about as Dr. Jordan noticed that when a lion was hunting an impala, the impala looked at the lion which led the lion to change plans. Lions are ambush hunters. When they feel that they have been noticed or seen, they abandon the hunt.
This idea is inexpensive, effective, and may help the farmers protect their livestock, at the same time, lessen the decline of the lion population as they no longer have to kill or poison them.
Dubbed “iCow”, trials are still ongoing as to the effectiveness of this strategy and Dr. Jordan still has to return to Botswana for further testing and validation. Movements of both cows and lions will be monitored through GPS. Dr Jordan has already set up a crowdfunding on Experiment.com to purchase these monitors and so far, it has already gathered more than A$8000.
If this strategy works, it would be mutually beneficial for both lion population conservation and sustainable livelihood for the farmers.
Source: Good News Network