Painting Eyespots On The Backside Of Cows Can Prevent Potential Predator Attacks

A major global conservation challenge is the retaliatory killing of carnivores and the predation of livestock by carnivores. This is the main reason for large carnivore declines and the costs of coexistence are often excessively experienced by many rural communities in the south of the world. Especially in Botswana grazing landscapes of Africa that includes the Okavango Delta. That is why a certain group of researchers has experimented with a method to protect the lives of the livestock and residents’ livelihoods in Botswana.

A group of researchers from the UNSW (University of New South Wales) experimented with a novel method of painting a pair of eyes on the backside of herds that could trick predators like cheetahs, lions, and hyenas into thinking they have been spotted by their prey. Predators like such usually rely on staying undetected when preparing themselves for an attack.

Eyespots painted on cows

Apparently the method has a surprisingly low success rate of hunting by some of the dangerous hunters of nature. Fifty percent for cheetahs, thirty-eight percent for leopards, and twenty-five percent for lions. According to a statement made by the University of New South Wales and Dr. Neil Jordan, a researcher of the Taronga Western Plains Zoo ambush predators like the lions attack by first stalking its prey. However, once surprised of being spotted by its prey it would discard its hunt.

A cow with eyespots on his rumps

The main aim of this method is to reduce the losses of livestock, protect livelihoods, and lions. The method was tested by painting eyespots on fourteen different herds that are known for regular lion attacks. A third of the herds had simple crosses, another third had eyes painted on their backsides, and the remaining third were left unattended (unpainted). During the four-year study killings of four-eyed cows were not reported. However, four cows with crosses and 15 unpainted cows were killed.

An African cow with an eyespot on its backside

The researchers hope their findings will help farmers control the predator attacks on their herds. These findings have also been translated into practical guides in Setswana and English for further understanding.

Image Credits: Bobby Jo Photography

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