In the beginning, these painted eyes may seem like a joke, but it is very effective. In some cases, scientists think that painting big eyes on the cows’ butt could keep them safe from lions and other predators. Researchers from the University of New South Wales, Taronga Conservation Society Australia, and Botswana Predator Conservation conducted a combined research to prove this point.
Cattle in 14 herds in Botswana, Africa, routinely threatened by lions, had their butts decorated with painted eyes. This was part of an experiment to see if it worked. Every cattle herd’s buttocks were painted with a pattern that resembled an eye, with one-third of the cows’ buttocks bearing the design. Simple cross marks were found on around one-third of cows, with the other pages cows remaining unmarked.
Image courtesy : UNSW/BEN YEXLEY
The research took a total of four years to complete.
As the last step, they found that cows painted with fake eyes were much more likely to survive than unpainted or cross-painted cows in the same herd.
Communications Biology journal published a study on the scientists’ technique. They believe it’s a more humane option than deadly control. In addition, this is a more environmentally friendly option to fence animals off from predators.
Normally, predators depend on their prey not being able to see them in order to successfully snatch them. In this way, they hope to deceive the lions into believing they have lost their edge and therefore convince them to give up the hunt.
As a researcher for both UNSW Science and Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dr. Neil Jordan says that lions are ambush predators that depend on stalking to get their prey. When their target spots them, it might cause them to give up and give up the chase altogether.
Their research has examined if they can infiltrate this reaction in order to lessen livestock losses while also possibly saving both lions and cattle livelihoods in the process.
Ambush predators didn’t kill any of the eye-painted cows throughout the four-year trial, which surprised the researcher. 15 cows that were not painted and four cows that were cross-painted were slain.
However, these findings, are consistent with Jordan’s assertion that if the prey perceives that the predator has been seen, it will leave the chase.
Unmarked cows in the same herd had a far lower survival rate than those marked with simple crosses.
Cattle marked with eyes had a greater chance of survival than cattle marked with other markings. Contrary to what was predicted, the “conspicuousness” effect shows that innovative cross-marks are preferable to no markings at all.
A number of animal species, including butterflies, birds, and fish, have been reported to have fake eye patterns on their bodies. In their native habitats, these skills help them fool and fight off other predators.
However, when it comes to mammals, no one of them is naturally born with these eye patterns on their bodies to aid them in their survival versus other animals.
Co-author Cameron Radford claims that their findings reveal for the first time that eyespots dissuade big animal predators.
They believe this indicates that there may be an intrinsic sensitivity to eyes that may be used to influence behavior in real-world contexts. Preventing human-wildlife confrontations and reducing criminal behavior among people are examples of what this entails.