Big cat attacks on livestock in southern Africa not only threaten farmers’ livelihoods, they also represent a problems for conservationists because worried farmers often shoot the predators when they stray near their farms.
But a new low-tech solution could save the lives of cows and lions. A new study has revealed that painting a pair of eyes on the cows’ backsides can deter lion attacks.
According to a University of New South Wales study conducted in Botswana’s Okavango Delta region, the simple trick enormously increases the survival of livestock as it makes big cats such as lions believe that they have been spotted by their prey and abandon the hunt.
Dr J. Weldon McNutt, the director of Botswana Predator Conservation, and Tshepo Ditlhabang, who is the group’s coexistence Officer, told local newspaper Times Live: “Conflict between farmers and wildlife can be intense along the borders of protected areas, with many communities bearing significant costs of coexisting with wildlife.
“To our knowledge, our research is the first time that eye-spots have been shown to deter large mammalian predators.
“We hope that this simple, low-cost approach could reduce the costs of coexistence for some farmers.”
The University worked with Botswana Predator Conservation and local herders to paint 14 cattle herds in the study.
A third of each herd were painted with artificial eyes, a third with cross-marks and a third were unmarked. Over four years, a total of 2,061 cattle were involved in the study.
None of the cows painted with fake eyes were killed, while 15 unpainted and 4 cross-painted cattle were killed.
The researchers added that this was a significant step to protect livestock, but warned the findings would not be a “silver bullet” for farmers, and that they should consider other deterrents alongside the painted eyes to protect their cows.