For Lions, Stopping an Attack is All in the Eyes

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As the protected areas for lions in Africa grows smaller, these predators come in contact more and more with human settlements. Suddenly, farmers are finding their cattle killed by the lions. Because these farmers cannot afford such losses, many lions have been killed. Dr. Neil Jordan, a researcher for UNSW’s Centre for Ecosystem Science, might have a solution to the problem. Dr. Jordan believes that by painting or stamping eyes on the back of cattle that the lions won’t attack them.

While this might seem a little silly, there is good evidence that it could prove effective. Woodcutters working in India have long worn face masks on the back of their heads to ward off tiger attacks. Also, butterflies with eye-like patterns tend to ward off predator attacks.

Dr. Jordan started planning the experiment when he watched two lions cut short an attack once the antelope noticed them. Lions are ambush hunters and won’t attack if they believe they are being watched.

A 2016 study involved 62 head of cattle living close to a protected area for lions. Researchers painted eyes on the rump of a third of the cows. Over a 10-week period, the researchers watched how many cattle were killed and how many of the slayed cows had eyes painted on them. After the trial period, three cows were killed by lions, and none of them had eyes on their hind end. Of course, the sampling is too small and further research was planned.

To raise funds for further research, Dr. Jordan turned to science crowdfunding, raising more than $8,000 for a new study to last three months. The funds purchased 10 GPS loggers for the cattle and a GPS radio collar for a lion to further the research.Dr. Jordan’s solution to this problem may be just what is needed to save the lives of both the cows and the lions. Watch what happens when lions miss their prey

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