Scientists Draw Eyes on Cow Butts to Protect Them from Lions

(Photo: Ben Yexly/UNSW)

Conservationists at the University of New South Wales want cattle farmers in Botswana to be able to live side-by-side with wild lions. That's hard because the lions prey on the farmers' cattle. So the scientists proposed a form of psychological warfare: painting eyes on the cows' butts. Lions, seeing the false eyes, will assume that they've being spotted and should give up hunting those particular cows. A press release from the University quotes biologist Neil Jordan:

Dr Jordan’s idea of painting eyes onto cattle rumps came about after two lionesses were killed near the village in Botswana where he was based. While watching a lion hunt an impala, he noticed something interesting: “Lions are ambush hunters, so they creep up on their prey, get close and jump on them unseen. But in this case, the impala noticed the lion. And when the lion realised it had been spotted, it gave up on the hunt,” he says.

In nature, being ‘seen’ can deter predation. For example, patterns resembling eyes on butterfly wings are known to deter birds. In India, woodcutters in the forest have long worn masks on the back of their heads to ward-off man-eating tigers.

Jordan’s idea was to “hijack this mechanism” of psychological trickery. Last year, he collaborated with the BPCT and a local farmer to trial the innovative strategy, which he’s dubbed “iCow”.

-via American Digest


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