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Farmers are painting eyes on cows' backsides

By T.K. Randall
August 12, 2020 · Comment icon 13 comments

Can painting eyes on a cow's rear-end help protect it from lions ? Image Credit: YouTube /
Farmers in Africa have found a novel new way of protecting their livestock from opportunistic predators.
In Botswana's Okavango delta, keeping cattle safe is an ongoing battle thanks to the plethora of predators, such as lions, cheetahs and wild dogs, which happen to live in the region.

But where strong fences and other deterrents have failed, one unorthodox tactic has proven surprisingly effective - painting fake eyes on the cows' backsides.

The method was recently the subject of an international study which aimed to find the most ecologically effective alternative to fencing and other methods for keeping cattle safe.

The idea behind it is that lions and other predators rely on sneaking up on their prey without being spotted. If you paint eyes on the back of the cows, it will look as though they can see the lions approaching from behind, thus deterring them from attacking.

"Lions are ambush predators that rely on stalking, and therefore the element of surprise, so being seen by their prey can lead to them abandoning the hunt," said Dr Neil Jordan.
"We tested whether we could hack into this response to reduce livestock losses, potentially protecting lions and livelihoods at the same time."

Sure enough, over the course of the four-year study, no cows with painted eyes were killed by ambush predators, whereas other nearby cows with no painted eyes were targeted.

The only problem is, over time, the predators may get wise to the ruse and it will stop working.

"This is a fundamental issue for nearly all non-lethal approaches, and whether the technique remains effective in the longer-term is not yet known in this case," said Jordan.

"Habituation may be a key issue where resident carnivores frequently encounter 'eye-cows', but in many areas, carnivores may be simply passing through, and habituation is less of a concern there."

Source: New Zealand Herald | Comments (13)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by Big Jim 4 years ago
This brings up a question that has bugged me from time to time.  How do animals know that eyes are for seeing?  Just because they see doesn't mean everything does.  How do they know that specific organs provide sight?  They can determine what teeth and claws are for by seeing them in action, but to know they're being seen they would have to know what eyes are for.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Michelle 4 years ago
By watching other animals. When they see something they c*** their heads. pupils dilate and their whole body tenses up when danger is near. It's strictly a survival  mechanism they learn from birth.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Big Jim 4 years ago
Autocensor makes no allowance for context.  
Comment icon #7 Posted by pbarosso 4 years ago
they have been doing this in india for years. sorry if its news to all you youngsters.
Comment icon #8 Posted by spartan max2 4 years ago
Would this also prevent me from being attacked by wildlife 
Comment icon #9 Posted by diddyman68 4 years ago
Yes indeed,im sure people in other countries do as well. They put mask faces on the back of their heads because they know tigers and leopards are ambush predetors,and won't attack if they think the prey is looking at it.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Humbled Hypocrite83 4 years ago
They are in a survival setting. There is no school to teach them. Perhaps knowledge overtime 
Comment icon #11 Posted by TripGun 4 years ago
The googly ones kept falling off.
Comment icon #12 Posted by TripGun 4 years ago
How does a stick bug know that looking like a stick disguises them or a butterfly have markings to the scare birds off or a fake coral snake knows to look poisonous and how would any animal would even know a coral snake was poisonous? IMO - I believe it to be an instruction set built in to the "life engine" to perpetuate life.  Beware of the thought police coming for your posts on this website.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Big Jim 4 years ago
Camouflage and body types don't have to be thought about or reacted to, critters are just born that way.  They would result from natural selection, bugs that look like sticks get eaten less than bugs that look like bugs.  But to look at another creature and know that out of all the features you see, ears, paws, nose, etc. it is the eyes that perceive you, that takes some sort of knowledge.  Just one of the little things I'm likely to puzzle over.

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