Farmers and animal conservationists are constantly on the work to try and find solutions to help and save wildlife and cattle. One conflict that has been around for many years is between wildlife and humans such as farmers. As we all know it is the nature of wildlife to prey on livestock such as sheep and cows, but that unfortunately sparks a problem for the farmer.
For years farmers have been trying to find a way to keep their cattle save from attacks, and thankfully, researchers from the University of South Wales have found a non-invasive way to help everyone coexist.
For four years researchers working with Botswana Predator Conservation and local herders have been studying what would happen if they painted eyespots on the backsides of cattle which came back to be more efficient than expected.
Members of the herd painted with eyes were far more likely to survive than those without any markings or those painted with simple cross markings. This solution makes use of the concept of defensive mimicry. This defensive mechanism is already present in many different species.
After further research and careful observation, researchers discovered that the main predators attacking the livestock is lions, who is known to use the element of surprise to pounce on their prey. Researchers found that the lions were deterred by the painted eyes, and gave the impression that their hunt has been spoiled seemed to ward off an attack.
This significant finding might be a way to help farmers against attacks on their stock especially farmers who live on the borders of conservation land as these areas are known for various of wildlife who cross freely into farmland and kill valuable livestock.
But before one can implement this technique, one should know how powerful it actually is. To answer this question we can look at the excellent results the researchers got from the study. Over the course of the four-year study, 2,061 cattle were observed over 49 painting sessions which lasted 24 days. To test the theory, the herds were split into thirds, with one group receiving the painted eyes, another getting a simple cross painting, and the rest left unmarked.
Of all the 683 cattle who were painted with eyes, none of them died over the course of four years where fifteen of the 835 unpainted cattle died at the hands of lions, and only four of the 583 cross painted animals were killed.
All though this method has seen some remarkable results, researchers pointed out that the results might be different if the entire herd was painted, thus leaving no easy targets. Researchers also stated that as with all non-lethal approaches, there is the possibility that lions could get used to the deterrent and strike anyway.
But, this low-cost technique may still be a valuable tool to help keep the peace between farmers and wildlife.